Friday, July 22, 2011

Waiting

If you are a praying person, please could you pray for us this coming week?

The end of July heralds the end of three months of waiting and of pressing in to God like anything and trying to walk right and love well. It's been really hard but we have discovered a heck of a lot about ourselves which hasn't always been pleasant and have also received much greater clarity about future ministry. We are aching for the revelation and the miracle of how this actually pans out, as - to be honest - this week it seems more complicated than it ever was before. Nothing that has appeared before us is straightforward. It all feels like it is waiting on one more jigsaw piece. But time is running out for us to play around in our own strength with endless possibilities - we have children, schools, houses and jobs to think about.

We checked out estate agents today to find out about the process in this city to put our house up for sale. That's kinda sore because we dont really want to but dont have a lot of choice. But we don't know as yet where we will go so how can we move forward? I know we will have clarity, I totally trust him, everything else has been spot on but I really do feel the pressure of time now.

The temptation is to feel more alone than ever. There are so many things I don't understand. Today we meditated as a couple on what it meant when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 26)
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.

dear, dear Father: please bring this time to closure, yet not as we will, but as you will. We remember it cost you far much more than anything ever costs us. No-one can ever outrun you on pain, hurt or cost.

Encouraging comments or Scriptures are welcome in the littl'bitty box below, or feel free to email children.pastor@gmail.com with any Bible verses or pictures.

Blessings!

PS thanks for the enquiries about the book writing, it's going really well but much slower. I probably need more time but will just have to squeeze the last third in alongside other duties in August/Sept. I am really enjoying it although I wish I had taken Hebrew when I did my theology degree....will need to find a friendly Pentateuch expert - see the stuff in there on family cf NT and what it has to say to us today - mindblowin' stuff!

Philippians 1:3-6
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What I'm Missing........


I'm really missing some things in this period of writing, resting, and am incredibly excited about leading some family ministry next Thursday. If you are going to be there, please come along with and say "hi!" here.

I'm actually champing at the bit now to get back into spearheading some things in the local church and to teach and to look after the younger ones within the context of the whole church family. I was talking with my denominational ministry advisor about this; I don't think it's been because I feel I am missing out, like I'm on the shelf; it's because the call to do so has been reinforced and strengthened in a way I didn't expect.

Here are some of the things I am missing - they are not in any particular order of importance - I'm missing them all!

- facilitating worship with kids and with the kids' leaders week by week; watching them go from kicking and annoying each other, to dance, to kneel on the floor; to pray freely out loud, to respond in so many ways. I love teaching them about worship; I think because it is an important value to me and Mr HIWWC, it rubs off on those younger than us. All credit to God for that - he has saved me, cleansed me from the past and filled me with joy that almost any time I feel miserable find it difficult to ignore the deep down bubbly joy and gratitude that wants to make its way out to the surface.

- planning and leading all age services where we unpack something MEATY from God's word; over the past few years we looked at "chesed" (his lovingkindness), the gifts of the Spirit, healing, the centrality of the Word, the Micah challenge, the father heart of God....I am missing seeing children and teenagers take part in the service - a memorable Bible Quiz with two teenagers against the seemingly unbeatable Senior Pastor. and I am missing God Rods moving the congregation to tears (you'd need to ask me if you see me, if you dont know what these are!).

- I'm missing being able to facilitate the children moving on in prayer - praying with adults, praying for their friends at school, shouting out prayers of victory loudly in the hall time! I have to underline something I said before - I might start it off but then I stand back - God has totally exceeded anything I saw before or expected - I'm sitting in a congregation and not having any part over what I see could so easily just be launched. Set some boundaries (this can take a while if behaviour has been challenging), teach "how to", walk in expectation and then let them go.

- I'm REALLY missing my teams. I had some great, great, great people who were loyal, loving, committed, open to change (which I undoubtedly brought) and open to challenges. Glad to see such a calibre of people showing same in the church we are visiting. Pastors and leaders - your youth and childrens leaders are most often of the highest quality and mainly unseen, because they are not at the front playing an instrument or at the door welcoming. Please, please value them and listen to them - to listen to them you have to first ask them what's on their mind. A common mistake is to chase more after the people who are leaving your church than those who are its future. Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away....different context I know....but he let someone walk away from him who he no doubt cared for hugely ** CONTROVERSIAL BIT OVER

- I'm missing the children. I haven't been able to type this before now but in as many weeks five boys who I have seen in non-church contexts have told me how much they miss me, and have been quite emphatic in stating it, which as you know isn't typical "boy" behaviour. Three of them were senior primary! I can only put this down to the fact that I love them and was so so committed to their well-being and they knew it. I'm missing especially the dozen or so teenagers who supplemented the teams, because I loved seeing them and talking to them, as this wasn't something I usually did - we had a youth pastor who worked with the teens.

Teenagers have been my area of "expertise" professionally as well as as a volunteer in church life for a couple of decades now. One thing I really liked about the church I left was that quite a lot of the teenagers helped at the holiday club or on Sundays. This year had been a year of so much change in the church's life; I would really liked to have built on last year's holiday club which had a FAB team of leaders and esp teenagers - nothing like a bit of service within a well-structured team to build faith and confidence.

- I'm missing parents hugely. In education you learn (the hard way sometimes) to work in partnership with parents. I'll go so far as to say that its one of the keys to successful youth or children's ministry. That's one of the buzzword phrases for both primary and secondary (I was in secondary ed) and I know it was one of my most effective areas in the two churches I have ministered in. I did bring challenges to parents, I know that, and I had to live them out myself before I issued these challenges to others, but I genuinely cared for the parents and even as I type this, 3 months on, person after person is coming to mind that I can't quite forget yet. There were so many children there that I so desperately needed assistance and I struggle with thinking that I didn't do as much as I could, but I know I loved and prayed and saw quite a number of new committments. These parents occupy a special place for me, I am missing them a lot and do think most weeks: "I wonder how they're doing".....

- I'm missing praying with people - this is fellow staff, children, kids team, parents - anyone in the congregation following the preaching of God's word or in coffee meet-ups or home visits. I love getting alongside someone, listening as best I can and then tuning in to what God is saying. Fortunately we have been surrounded with good friends who we have prayed with and vice versa over these last 3 months and have done some good praying with people times in cafes etc! But I'm missing offering pastoral support and weeping alongside people. Does that make me needy? I hope not.

- I'm missing the kids discipleship group - the people in it, my assistant leader Ruth, and the actual physical time we had all together. Over the last three years this has been one of my hugely enjoyable highlights of the week, as it was in my last church. God really met with these 10, 11 and 12 year olds. We'd been moving into a more missional model of a group with Pray for Scotland's "Pray For Five". The last time we met on 6 April there was such an outpouring of power. Mr HIWWC was playing guitar quietly, singing nothing, I was standing with my back to the wall, having come to the end of six months of teaching and discussing stuff - we just watched in amazement as the girls prayed and prophesied over one another and the BOYS DID THE SAME amongst each other. By now we'd have had a residential weekend away, which was probably always my highlight of the year......

- I'm missing preaching/teaching. The church I was part of had given me some opportunities to do this a little more and I really loved it. I also did some hands-on teaching to children - as Martin Luther said in a post a few days ago, it's pretty good to be able to keep your skills up there! - and to teach team and in larger gatherings, like my annual vision day. These things to wider groups have continued - I have quite a few things on in the autumn - but there is nothing like the local church, where you are known and you know and care for the flock in front of you.

- I'm missing visiting people at home or over a coffee to chat and spend time I'm not a huge fan of emails for pastoral care or communication. To be frank, they don't really do it. People don't remember emails, but they do remember when you sat with them in Starbucks to run through a plan or a vision, or sat with them and let tears fill your eyes alongside them. They remember you popping into see their child in hospital or you coming round when they hadn't been at church for a few weeks. I saw a lot of people behind the scenes and I am really missing that. I'm just a peopley person and generally find it hard to sit at a computer for long times. I've been able to see more of the schools mums I am pally with, so that's a bonus of this time.

- I'm missing being part of a team massively. I dont work well on my own. I need to have people to bounce things off, who will listen to me as I listen to them. However sad I was at times over the last year, there were a lot of laughs. Porridge. Chocolate. Plastic fish. Hot and cold radiators. Onesies. Laminators. Same things in my pstoral employment before that (particularly about Jack Bauer) and in the staffroom of secondary school - the sand garden after stressful lessons is a particularly warm memory.

There are many things I'm not missing of course and there are many things I am still experiencing and enjoying no matter where I am, because of my relationship with God - I love worship services, I love hearing what God wants to say to me week by week, I love hearing the testimonies of lives changed, I love being loved and we have felt such love and acceptance from the churches we've been in during ths period (4 altogether - one was in Cornwall and one was my first place of employment - they cheered for us this week during the service, embarrassing - but so lovely and very moving - we left three years ago).

We have so much to be grateful for. My testimony of these three months is of the incredible tenderness of God in his dealings with me and through very painful emotions.

I want to be back in local church ministry so I am calling out to God along the lines of the things I wrote in previous entries***. It's OK to do that, to talk detail with him and to express honest emotions, dreams and desires, all within the context of his love for me and his promise to work all things together for the good of those who love him. And I do love him.

***previous posts referred to
perseverance
dreams
God's promises are true

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winter is past, the springtime has come.....



The picture above is the view from our decking/breakfast table. This holiday is a gift from God! He's so good to us. Two things I love: cliffs and waves. And I can see them every day.

I thought I would write about a little highlight of our holiday so far:we have just had the privilege of spending the last two Sundays at the tubestation - which is both gathered church and a missional community, engaged in midweek activity within their base building and much, much wider in that in the way the folks there share their lives.

We've been coming here for 3 years now on our Cornwall summer holidays and it's inspiring to see a two-pronged missional focus:
(1) to the surfing community and
(2) to the local community - the village of Polzeath (and now to other local villages with the plant out to St Merryn)

A few years ago I had the privilege of offering a detailed prophecy to the leaders there, when I knew very little about their history, background, hopes or desires and just chewing that over together has given us one of those precious heart-to-heart connections with the tube station project directors. I love that about the kingdom of God - when you don't see people very often, so you don't know the minutiae of each other's lives, and yet you support one another fiercely - the picture that comes to mind is of people in the crowd who are cheering you - they are all for you. Well, that's how we feel about tubestation.

The need to give people from all ages and stages of life a broad welcome was the theme of this Sunday's sermon with Ian Bell of the Methodist Church's Venture FX scheme speaking. I have heard Ian speak before and I love his simplicity, humility, warmth and evident excitement about the fresh expressions of church he encourages and develops.

The word I would use to sum up tubestation is "inclusive". They love to have visitors. Their attendance can go from 40 or 50 in the winter to over 250 some Sundays in the summer - we wondered if that gets annoying for the regulars but they genuinely love it when the place is packed out and visitors come from all over the country/world. I'll say this with a bias, for which I can't apologise, given what I am writing about in the book project just now - they have a very high regard for young people. We visited the building after school time today and there were a lot of kids and teenagers around - surfing the internet, skateboarding, playing around on the grass. Please do check out the website to see what other things they do - what has impressed me over the last few years is the inclusiveness of the activities that go on; yes, there is a focus on one of the two things mentioned earlier (surf community/local community) but within that children and teenagers have a place that's all for them. I get the feeling that the heart of tubestation is to love well and to love all, hence the relevance of Sunday's sermon.

The worship leading is just immense - we have probably been around 6 or 7 times now and there is always a reverence for the old hymns of the past with one of the Wesleys usually featuring (Methodist chapel remember!) and lots of songs that mention "seas", "oceans", "waves" and the beauty of God's creation. And there is such a sense of the presence of God - the band is tight, musically, but Kris, the lead worshipper most times I have been there, leads what must be an incredibly diverse crowd (denominationally speaking!) so sensitively. You can tell he just loves to worship God any way he can. That desire is always visible when someone is really living it.

And so this Sunday we sang one of our favourite songs, but not always a common choice, you can click on it at the end of the post if you wish.

Winter is past, the springtime has come....

As we approach the end of the month, and the end of the three months of waiting and walking out the period of leaving well and loving well we anxiously wait for springtime. When we were praying last night here in our wee holiday home I felt I could see wee buds that had formed but we are not there yet. And I can't make them unfold. I've got to wait, but when you see the buds, you know it won't be long. I've not been perfect, I've felt so much pain lift, but some is still there and it can be reawakened. I have struggled with bits and pieces, but I have unfalteringly in the private place submitted to the fact that God is sovereign; he has guided me with unfailing detail for decades now and he knows what he's doing. He clearly spoke to us to lay it all aside and leave and write and trust him for finances. He's provided so tenderly for the three month period. But it's time to walk into spring. He loves my last leadership team so much and he loves me so much. And as I have said before: if my transgressions were marked, would I be able to stand? Who am I to judge? That holds me captive. We all face judgment for our actions when we stand before God. No-one is exempt from that, so what good can I achieve by refusing to release mercy? Besides, its much more exciting to advance the kingdom and experience healing from life's hurts. Time is short and I feel like exploding with how much God loves this world. It's time to walk into spring. You've got to winter, but you can't stay there for too long or it will kill life off.

So I now stand with bated breath, petitioning the Lord for the one thing I am now waiting for.