Life Changes

Right, well I know I’m not going crazy anymore, so that’s a good thing…
Went to see my lovely parish priest this morning (so to clarify he’s the Vicar of the church in my village, not the one where I regularly attend). An hour and a half and bit of sobbing later I can accept that…. monumental moment coming up… I have a calling. Ok, so I knew that already but it’s fair to say I have been denying it. I’m not saying it will be easy to accept it, probably the opposite, but I can’t deny it any longer.

Funnily enough he, ie: the parish priest, just happens to be the vocations chap for the diocese (I didn’t know this before), so was the perfect person to talk to. (God moves in funny ways sometimes..) Anyway I poured out my heart, thoughts, anxieties, 100 reasons why I couldn’t do it… He was perfectly gracious, despite my snotty appearance and general ‘I can’t do this’ approach, and basically gave me total confirmation about all I have been feeling. He told me that what I said matched up to what other potential ordinands (is that the word?) say, that it made perfect sense, that if he had a tick list I would be ticking many of the boxes. eeekkk!

He asked me why the Church of England, especially I guess, as I attend a very evangelical church now, and I told him how I felt about the CofE (including that I don’t agree with all of it!) and about my passion for the parish churches (which he has heard before). (too much to write all that here). To my surprise he told me that I had a very ‘mature and balanced’ outlook on it and it would be exactly what the diocese would want to hear. I didn’t expect that at all – scary stuff ;)

He told me about the potential process and what would be the next step, which set me more at ease about the whole thing, about the timing of it and what it would involve. Which is really why I went to see him in the first place, to get the low down on what I would have to do, if I really felt called. I felt that seeing him was a ‘safe’ option as I wouldn’t be admitting it to my own priest – I guess I thought that would make it official, with no going back and I wanted a sounding board first!

So he basically told me he thinks I should take the next step (ie: going to my Vicar and then the diocese guy whose title I have forgotten already…). I actually thought my heart would jump out of my chest when he said this, but strangely it wasn’t with fear as I thought it might but with excitement. I really can’t tell you how much of a surprise that was. It was like the last bit of confirmation I needed to feel ok with it all.

So… I guess I need to speak to my Vicar…
Can’t describe how I am feeling – it’s a bit like I’ve been through an ordeal and come out the other side – not that it was an ordeal seeing him this morning, totally the opposite, but I feel emotionally drained, exhausted really. But at the same time when I think about what he said to me I feel massively excited. At the school gate I wanted to run up to everyone and say, ‘guess what….’. Of course I didn’t, as most of them are not Christians and they would have thought I had gone mad. That will be another days step!

So after all that, I feel some peace about the whole thing. I can accept that there is a calling, I can accept that it is in Gods hands and time will tell what route I will be on.
I think that although I will speak to my Vicar, I don’t want this process to start until after Christmas (and anyway he might suggest further away who knows), but I want to protect this ‘sabbatical’ I have (it is God given after all) and not rush into this. It will be Gods timing whatever I feel anyway!!

If you feel so inclined, please pray for me. Although I’m excited there is a part of me that is completely terrified too!!

Speaking in tongues

Yesterday I prayed in tongues for the first time. This was a bit of a surprise as I haven’t been ‘eagerly desiring the gift’ and to be totally honest I am a teensy bit skeptical about it. It seems to be a subject that really divides people. Those who do it are enthusiastic that others should too, that it brings one closer to God, for that ‘heart-heart’ connection. Those that don’t are often hugely skeptical, thinking it a lot of mumbo-jumbo.

Some months ago I did a bit of ‘research’ into it. The bible clearly talks about the discicples speaking in tongues in a few places.
Acts 2: 1-5
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

but it seems that here they weren’t doing it to talk to God but in order to spread the gospel to those whose language they didnt speak. Later Paul says in 1 Corinthians, something different, that we should desire the spiritual gifts but in this case, to speak to God. In 1 Cor 14:2

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

So is this one and the same thing? I have heard of pepole suddenly speaking in a new language (as in an actual language that they are not previously fluent in) and I have also experienced people praying in tongues, which mostly sounds like nonsense or possibly some sort of strange arabic dialect (not that I know what arabic sunds like of course…)
This passage bothers me too:

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 1 Corinthians 14:6-12

It seems that there are 2 purposes for praying or speaking in tongues –
1. to speak directly to God, to express what words cannot express.
2. to speak to others, whether in their own language or with a translation.

With both of these one is completely reliant on God for the understanding.

In my limited research I watched a video of man being monitored whist praying in tongues. The scientist suggests that the speech part of his brain is inactive in the process. Now of course, this is a clip I found on google, so I dont hold it as any great evidence, but that did stick with me.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZbQBajYnEc

And I was very interester that the Pastor in question says that those with faith have nothing to fear dfrom science, infact that science validates faith…

Going back a few more months… very soon after our big renewal of faith I was praying silently to myself during a prayer meet (there were just 3 of us) when I had words come into my head. The first was Yeshua, which I half recognised, so didn’t think much about it, then the next one was ‘habibi’. This sounded like total nonsense so I ignored it all. but over the next few days it kept coming back to me. So eventually I stuck it in google and the translation came back straight away: ‘Jesus my beloved’ and it is arabic. Now I am sure I had never heard that phrase before, so my instant reaction was ‘wow’ ok, so that really was God. From that I felt encouraged and tried to allow more words to come but it wasn’t really happening and so I gave up.

fast forward back to the present… Last night I was at my prayer group and one of the girls asked which of us prayed in tongues. I was the only one who didn’t so she asked if she could pray for the gift to be released in me. So I thought, why not?! although still abit skeptical, so I just said to God, look if this is for me I want it to do your work, to get closer to you, not to be able to say in a room full of people, yeah I pray in tongues. Or pray it loudly at church…
So she prayed for me and then after they prayed for me about some other unrelated stuff, so whilst I sat quietly I prayed to myself and words just started coming. When they had all gone I prayed again in bed and the same thing. The weird thing is I was not in control, it was like I could hear myself, I could hear the sounds but I wasn’t chosing them. I have quite a visual mind, I guess because I am an artist that makes sense, and it was like I could see in my mind this stream of words ahead that my voice was following, so I was focussed on that, while my mouth was making the words. It was really quite strange but at the same time I had this great feeling of warmth and joy.
So this morning I have gone back to being skeptical, and thinking ‘is it really from God?’ But the same thing is happening, like I am not in control of the words. So I guess I now have the gift of tongues.
Love to know others thoughts on the git of tongues, others experiences, positive and negative…!

Hope

This weekend I was taught a lesson in hope. On Sunday night I went with our curate and a team to a church in London. He was preaching, we were there as the prayer team. As always he preached amazingly.

We had prayed in the car on the way up – he asked us to pray for words of knowledge for people who we could pray for healing. We were going to do this when we got there but the traffic was so awful and we were so late – Sunday evening traffic on the M25/M4!. As I was driving I couldn’t really concentrate on praying but I did ask God to guide me and as I did I noticed the number plate on the car in front it was EX55… I felt God was saying ‘excess’, that there would be someone there who was suffering ill health due to living life to excess, or taking something to excess.

Anyway we all got up after our curate had finished and said what we thought God has shared with us. No one came forward for me so I started to feel a bit like I had got it wrong and mayebe I should have prayed harder. So I prayed for a couple of others who had coem forward with other problems. 2 or 3 people got healed of injuries – one who wasn’t a Christian and he was amazed – it was really funny! He kept bending his legs and saying ‘its really gone!’

Anyway I felt drawn to a lady the other side of the church so I went round and asked if she would like me to pray for her. I won’t share all her story but she is an addict and has led a pretty horrible life. Been abused, been an alcoholic, been in prison and worse. and as she spoke I felt that she was the person suffering from excess. I wanted to cry her story was so sad. As I listened I prayed, Lord what can I say to her? She has such a hopeless life, what can I possibly say to her? But I really felt God saying, she has Hope, she is not hope-less. and actually I learnt something from her. Becuase she wasn’t making excuses for her behaviour, she wasn’t saying well I’ve had such a hard life, thats why I do this. The opposite. she said ‘I know its a sin, I know God wants me to stop’. she quoted scripture at me far better than I could for her. she really knows God. and she was so humble.

Now I am sure she is one of those slight oddballs of the congregation, you know the ones people don’t want to get stuck talking to, almost avoid so they don’t have to put their Christian principles to the test, I am sure every congregation has one. And I admit that I stood there with my inital thoughts being about not getting this kind of person on leafy Sussex and that I would hate to be in her situation, and how did I get stuck talking to her, but as she went on my heart broke for her. but actually she has a close relationship with God, probably more so than I do. And Actually it was a privelege talking to her. I would like to think that in her situation I would be as hopeful, as faithful, but the truth is I’m not sure I would.


You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:114

Reflection

Today is my wedding anniversary. and today we celebrated. Not just because it is our anniversary but because this time last year our relationship was pretty battered (and I don’t mean the kind that comes with chips…). We were struggling big time. In fact we had a holiday in the early summer last year, sans enfants, to get away and just try and talk through stuff, try and fix it. The time was spent talking, crying, being silent, willing each other to be happy, to love each other. The thing is we both knew we loved each other and we both knew that we couldn’t see us apart, but it just wasn’t working. I think we were both just exhausted, 3 kids, me running my own business, we just didn’t have time to spend together and when we did have time we just wanted a break from everything – well I did anyway. If I had an evening off the last thing I wanted to do was spend it with my husband, I just wanted some time for ME.
So we came away from that week feeling that we just had to hang in there for each other. Nothing was going to change until the kids were older and we had some more time. Then of course God showed up in our lives. And you know what, our relationship is healed. Truly. And actually we haven’t changed anything in our lives, we still have 3 kids, my husband still works the same hours, I still ahve my business (well, for now anyway!) and in fact we are probably busier than we were because we have church stuff to do too. But in all that we ahve new found respect for each other, new found sympathy and understanding, new found love and excitement at spending time together and actually we haven’t done a thing! God has done it all. When we renewed our baptism vows a few months back we had to share some testimony and this is what my husband said:
‘it’s like as we fell in love with God, we fell in love with each other all over again’. And thats the only way I can describe it, (and yes I did blub when he said that, big time!).
So today was extra special. We wanted to thank God for bringing us back together and for blessing us so much in what we have together and in our family. So we walked to the top of the nearest hill with the guitar, and sang our hearts out in praise. It’s fair to say it was quite emotional, but amazing too.
So, I don’t care what anyone says about God not intervening in our world today, not performing miracles or caring about what we as inidividuals do, because he sure performed a miracle on us.

10 reasons why not to be a Vicar

Ok so the title is cribbed from Lesley, and I’m sure it won’t be as funny, but these are my reasons why I should NOT be thinking of Ordination:

1: I am SO not equipped. I haven’t even read the entire bible yet and I have no idea about the books – I mean am I the only one who thinks of Emmerdale when I see the ref: Amos? (and no I don’t watch it and no, I’m really not that old…)

2: I am nearly 40 for goodness sake. don’t the church need new young bright things to take it into the future? right now I feel neither new, young or bright, distinctly dull might be nearer the mark actually…

3: I am stepping back from work because I can’t have my cake and eat it (but oh boy do I love cake. no, I mean real cake, that wasn’t a metaphor). SO, why would I want to throw myself into something as huge as this when really I want to be a stay at home mum and bake all day…

4. Seriously, a dog collar? In my youth I was a bit of ‘crusty’, and whilst my clothing has improved dramatically over the years, let’s just say that old habits die hard. Boots and leggings are my preferred dress. I don’t really do smart and the thought of robes and collars makes me want to run (as do a lot of things about this). and anyway what is the dog collar about? where did that come from in the first place? as they say – must have been designed by a man…

5. I live in a rural idyll. It’s like something out of ‘Country Living’. It’s like going back 50 years. I regularly go out leaving my door unlocked (probably shouldn’t advertise that too far…), everyone knows each other, and looks out for each other. we walk across the fields to get to school, a school which has only 100 pupils in the whole school. The kids all play out in the road in the evenings. It is lovely. we always say moving here was the best thing we ever did. SO WHY? would I want to uproot everyone and move to some far flung corner of the country where I am pretty sure we won’t be able to recreate what we have here… (and I will have to wear a dog collar…)

6. My 14 year old will hate me. Actually she regularly tells me she does anyway so maybe that should negate no.6..
but if I, a) become a vicar b)make her move c) both of the above, let’s face it, I will be toast…

7. I love my church. Matt Redman comes to my church sometimes. It is C-O-O-L. I don’t want to have to find a new church, we just found this one. It’s the first church I have really felt comfortable in, that I feel I belong in. And what’s more, after training I will have even less choice as it will be my job (eek) so then I can’t just check out all the churches in the area, I will have to go to mine. Unless of course I get a job here, now that would be ok I guess.

8. Will making church my job take away the enjoyment? I don’t want to be in a position where I have to go to church because even though I love my church now, let’s face it sometimes Sunday mornings lend themselves rather well to lie ins, right? And well being a Vicar would kind of take that away. Unless I’m in a very sleepy parish and then they probably wouldn’t notice ;)

9. I do not like liturgy, and I don’t have to be a prophet to know that could be a problem with the Bishop…

10. The PCC. need I say more…

11. I just put my husband through rather a lot by starting my own business and then less than 3 years later deciding I want out. I think he would rather like me to get a ‘proper job’

12. If I’m honest I don’t want my friends at church to know about this (so Soraya, what I write on the blog stays on the blog…!) because even though they are all Christians and in theory won’t judge me, I am sure they will all have an opinion on what kind of Vicar I would make, and you know what, frankly I don’t want to hear that.

13. ditto the above for my non-Christian friends just minus the line about not judging – they will. and I still dont want to hear that.

Oh gosh this list could go on and on…. but for now, that will do.

The ‘O’ word…

Ok, so this might be getting a bit boring for those of you that actually read this occasionally. but the ‘O’ word is rearing its head again – man, I can’t even say it without stressing.
Ordination…
no, ok typing it isn’t any better…
I thought I had put it out of my head for a while but funny it just keeps coming back. In fact right now I can’t not think about it. I have been brave (or stupid) enought to mention it to a few close friends who have been supportive, encouraging but actually not a huge amount of help (sorry guys) in that I know I have to offer it back to God really and just see what happens. They have helped me have some peace over it, to be fair to them, but I guess what I want I can’t have – I want someone to say to me, ‘yes you’re right – go for it’. Or, hopefully, ‘no thats a terrible idea why would you think that…!’ and then I could console myself with the fact that someone else had made the decision.
Or, actually what I would really like is a thunderbolt and an angel from God turning up on my doorstep with a letter saying:
You need to be a Vicar,
signed:
God.
(with a possible postscript:
PS: stop messing around and get on with it before you’re too old…)

but in the event of that not happening ;) … I am stuck with it. One of my friends said to me: ‘well, if you’re honest with yourself, you know there is a calling there, don’t you?’ to which I floundered around a bit thinking, ‘oh great, now I can’t deny it….’.
To top it all off I sent my parish priest an email asking to meet for coffee and to pick his brains – his reply.. ‘so I guess you’re thinking of ordination then…?’ and when I stupidly said, what prompted you to say that, he replied, ‘God’. ok, so I really should have seen that one coming….

Thing is if I am honest the thought of actually openly admitting to the fact that I think possibly there might be a sort of calling on my life – thats admitting in the real world – blogs don’t count..;) then I am filled with dread, but also with a little bit of joy.
Man did I just actually say that?

BUT…. even if I can admit it, then the practicalities are such that I don’t even want to consider it. so do I keep putting this stuff to the back of my mind and hope it will go away? Right now I’m going to just wait for the angel with the letter…. hey, call me deluded, but you never know…

By the word of their testimony…

This morning I shared my testimony (yes, again…) at a local bible group. It was a group of women, most of whom I don’t know, some of whom are and some aren’t Christians. I had also been asked to play one of my songs and lead some worhsip too. Now speaking in front of people isn’t an issue for me , I have done a fair bit of it in various jobs and I don’t mind it. But I do wonder about my testimony. I mean I think what God has done inmy life is amazing but really will anyone else?! but the few times I have shared it has really touched people and I thank God for that. I knew all the crap that I have been through couldn’t have been for nothing! I had such lovely comments afterwards and whilst the glory is all for God, after all he has brought me here, it was great to feel that I had made a difference to others – or rather that God used me to make a difference to others.

Playing was a big thing for me too. Although I have now played some of my songs in front of others I didn’t know any worship songs and haven’t led before. I spent most of last night with my husband working out which songs have about 3 chords in them and no random sharps!!
I did hit a few bum notes but generally it went well and people sang along too (even in the high bit of ‘Blessed be Your Name’ !!, which I totally thank God for as I have a sore throat and was never gonna hit them this morning!). So all in all it went well.

Then just a moment ago, I got a message from the lady who runs the group, asking me to reguarly play (can’t have been too bad then!). Funny thing is I just knew she was going to ask – even though I didn’t play or sing my best, I had a feeling, so I ahd already thought about whether I wanted to or how it would fit in – having said I am not taking on anything else…..

SO, anyway I said yes.. there goes that resolution then. But I guess I do feel its God-led and it will be great experience (might stop me shaking so much – don’t know how I got through the first song!) and anyway it just felt right. On top of that my mentor eysterday gave me this scripture:
They Overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… Rev 12.11, so I kind of feel it was all meant to be…

Contemplative Prayer

Sorry been a bit remiss this week, have been taking some time easing myself into my new routine, ever so gently. ok, thats a load of… I’ve actually just been enjoying myself too much. Here comes the gloat… I now have 3 children all at school. thats all day, every day (well 5 of the 7). although, I am slightly sick of the ‘you won’t know what to do with yourself’ comment that I have heard more than once this week… OH YES I BLOODY WILL! but its definitely been a good week!

I used to say that I have been ready for No.3 to start school from the moment she was born – a bit harsh I know and no reflection on her, just that I think I felt I was done with the baby bit and the lack of sleep and the playing train tracks or baby tea parties and discussing nappy rash, the colour of childrens poo and what little Johnny had accomplished this week, and what nursery I was going to chose… oh the politics of nurseries you wouldn’t believe…
In actual fact when it came to filling in the form about schools some 12 months ago I was quite tearful and the realisation set in that there would be no more babies, children, teenagers and so on… ;) ANYWAY… this post is supposed to be about contemplative prayer, so that was just a little (or large) intro….

So in my new found time, (which I don’t know what to do with…) I have been doing many things including learning about ‘contemplative’ or ‘centering’ prayer. I went to a talk about it at our parish church in the summer and was inspired, the lady who did the talk (Rev. Tessa Hollands) was just inspiring, and so calm and peaceful that I thought, I need to know about this! So… I have read the book ‘Open Mind, Open Heart’ by Thomas Keating (yet more from the Amazon God-book department) and been giving it a go. It is really interesting in that actually it’s not contemplative at all, in that its not about contemplating anything, just practicing being in Gods presence – giving time to Him, not even reflecting on it. It’s not easy and of course I am just beginning and I do get sidetracked quite easily, but I love that I start my day in this way. I take the kids to school, get back and lock myself away for half an hour to just devote that time to God in total silence.

There are a few points I am struggling with which I will post more about tomorrow but in the meantime has anyone else tried this type of prayer? be great to hear any tips or ideas.

Prayer Walk II

So I’m back! What an awesome weekend. It’s fair to say that my feet are a tad sore and my brain a little mushy from lack of sleep, but what an experience! The tech team have produced a vid of the first part of the walk:

So…we walked 33 miles in 24 hours, with about an hours sleep. We visited 10 churches (and passed a whole let more!), we prayed in or around at least 10 villages and towns. We met some amazing and welcoming people at all times, with treats such as homemade soup at midnight, pastries at 3am, bacone sarnies at dawn (or before!) and all sorts in between! It has been a wonderul adventure, a privilege to be part of and a real encounter with God. It has amazed me to see where he just turns up in the little details, encouraging wen we were tired, providing when we were needy and present in the worship. The worship was awesome. We sung unaccompanied through fields, with a simple guitar in churches and with high tech worship teams too, and it was all awesome. You could practically see God smiling down on us :)

The absolute highlight was putting up a 12 foot cross on the South Downs. Made by a chap from church, carried by a band of strong men (and women) for about 45minutes, it was no mean feat! In one particularly narrow stretch of treelined woods we passed some horses and had to turn the whole thing on its side! But when it went up, on top of the hill, looking out over all of Mid Sussex with the sun going down, well… words fail me. It was very emotional. Our curate spoke some amazing encouraging words and led us in prayer and then we all took communion around the foot of the cross. I can honestly say that memory will stay with me for the rest of my life. And when we got to our first stop off about a mile away and a lot lower(!) we could clearly see the cross standing watch over the whole area.

Prayer Walk

This weekend, ie: tomorrow, I will be taking part in a prayer walk. It’s basically a 24 hour walk, covering 30 miles and stopping in lots of local churches/towns/villages to pray for the area, the schools, churches, people etc. Whilst 30 miles may not seem far, we are starting at 6 in the evening and not finishing until 6pm the folllowing day. I am a seasoned walker, but I think this willl be tough, so can I ask you, if you remember or if you have a moment, to pray for those of us doing the walk, specifically for strength and encouragement from God. Thanks :)If you’d like to know more, see the link below:
www.thepointchurch.co.uk/walkingtheland/
or if you are more interested you can check out facebook and twitter too: www.twitter.com/WalkingtheLand
Facebook: search: walking the land

This is one of those things that I just knew I had to be involved in the very second I heard about it and being part of the organising team has been a pleasure and such an excitement. I hope and pray that God will really move during this walk, that we can have a positive impact on the area and specifically the places we are visiting and that it gives a really posititve image to the community that the church is looking outwards and wants the best for the community. One of the lines I put on our press was:

‘Walking the Land is all about praying for Mid Sussex. Praying for our churches, our schools, our villages and towns, the people who live here. Whatever you believe, we all want the best for the place where we live. For our children, for our families, for our lives.’

Because actually it is about all of us, not just the Christians! If one person is feeling good, they will pass that on to those around them. Those who feel rubbish, generally bring down the mood of others. So even if no one around us believes in God (although I hope they will :) ) we can still try and make a difference to their lives, and a good one at that…