27 MILLION again

So…. sorry but I am not going to stop banging on about this, TODAY is the day!! the 27 Million single by Matt Redman and LZ7 is out today – so go buy it!!! single is supporting the anti-human trafficking organisation A21 and only available via digital download

In case you haven’t heard the stats there are more slaves today than every before in history, estimated at some 27million people. Men, women and children. Come on, let’s do something about this.. here is the first step – buy the single for just 99p and add to the voice. It’s currently at No.9 on itunes, but they want it to get to no.1 and get lots of media coverage.

Matt Redman was on Radio 2 yesterday morning with Aled Jones – so listen again for more info.

27 MILLION

Regular readers will know I have written about human trafficking and the amazing A21 campaign before. Well, if any of that ever struck a chord with you, then your help is needed! 
Matt & Beth Redman, and LZ7 have joined up to release a new single ’27 million’ in support of A21 and it is released on Sunday, so go buy it!! and this is why:

: The ‘Twenty Seven Million’ song looks to raise awareness for the anti-human trafficking movement. Together we could make some big noise about this important issue, and be a voice for the voiceless.

Here are some of the facts:
: Human trafficking is an organised criminal activity that affects every nation.
: There are an estimated 27 million people on the earth today trapped in some form of modern day slavery.
: There are an estimated 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide.
: Tragically, only 1-2% of victims are rescued.
: Remember every number is not just a statistic, it represents the life of a victim.
: For further information and statistics visit www.theA21campaign.org

On Saturday 25th Feb (thats this saturday) there will be a live webcast from 6.30 – 7.45pm, with J John, Matt & Beth Redman and LZ7. It will include chat and the live launch of the single and premiere of the video. Link should be on the ecard above or via Matts website: www.mattredman.com

My posts:
about A21
Beth Redmans account of how she found out about human trafficking
KEY2FREE an A21 event and video

BAP, The Bish and having doubts…

So I have a date for BAP, and plenty to do to prepare in advance. An email has already arrived with 13 attachments and that’s not to mention the paperwork that came in the post… next weeks task I think..

Anyway I got to talk to the DDO this week who gave me some helpful feeedback from the Bishop. mostly good but some constructive criticism too. None of it surprising but the same old things about not spending time in the traditional church. So what follows is rather a rant and probably something I need to get out of my system, (apologies now!)

Just to lay it out, I was brought up in a traditional anglican church, I worshipped in traditional agnlican churches for 30 odd years. Not only that but I have spent time involved in church youth groups, and  serving on a PCC.  I have helped organise events, socials and been involved in admin. All within more traditional churches. I am not a novice in the more traditional church. However because I have spent the last 2 years in a fresh expression church (part of the CofE I would like to add) that seems to be a problem.

My time with the Bishop was interesting and enjoyable, but a definite grilling (which was expected!). I felt I had to fight my corner rather, on some of the more contemporary areas of my church life (again somewhat expected), and I had the opportunity towards the end to ask about opportunities for pioneering ministry (for the benefit of the lovely David at The Vernacular Vicar I mean “Pioneering” in quotes, as in the CofE model for doing something ‘a bit different’ and not pioneering in the sense that all ministers are pioneers, (which they are.. ;) )
I thought this was productive and was inspired by some of his responses. However he still pointed out that whilst studying (assuming I get through, this will be the part time study from home option) I will not be able to stay within my own church, but will need to go to another church in order to get opportunities to train (fair enough but not enough reason to permanently move my family to another church) and that I need to be more versed in the traditional bearing in mind I am going into Anglican minsitry. Well, you may think that is fair enough but all the way along this process I have talked about being part of a more contemporay church and that I am  interested in new forms of church. There is a route to train as a pioneer minister, but for various reasons I didn’t take this. Most people I spoke to about it said it was very limiting and that there were few jobs at the end of it for ‘pioneer ministers’ which means that you are then looking for a more contemporary role along with everyone else who has trained, but you are already one step behind them because you haven’t done the more general training… see my dilmemna? However having not taken this route it is then assumed that you are wanting to go into the more general/traditional priestly role. And at every turn I have had to get experience or read up on the areas I am lacking in. Fair enough, that isn’t my problem. My problem is that then they try to make you fit into their square shaped hole, when you are actually star shaped. Not an easy fit. And I am rebelling against it! All my star points are acting like little legs, kicking back against the square… (ok getting a bit weird here, but you get my point.) So… I didn’t take the pioneer route – my own decision, but I could say I was following their advice and so now they aren’t able to hear anything I say outside of their little box. Responses like these are not uncommon:, ‘yes well thats all fine, but you will be in a  more traditional church’ or ‘yes, thats fine, but your church is not like any other’… that kind of thing. And for the record it is like some others and there should be more of them. grrrr…

So, I am stuck. Do I just go ahead and continue to fight my corner, or do I seriously go back and redo all of this under the pioneer banner? I know I am supposed to be in the CofE, of that I am sure, but I refuse to be forced into their mould when clearly that is not what God is wanting me to do…

I would love to hear from people who have been through this, expecially women, and especially those who have gone down the pioneer route… anyone got any contacts I can speak to?

eating disorders…

The lovely Emma over at LLM Calling flagged up last week that Eating Disorder Week was about to begin. She wrote a very honest and moving post about her own battle with an eating disorder and it inspired me to write about my own experiences.

When I was about 16 I stopped eating properly. I still can’t really accept that it was anorexia, even though I had counselling for it. I can’t quite bring myself to say that I had it. I think I wasn’t that bad, I was never really under weight, I was never in hopsital, all of which is true, but I did have a real battle with eating for about 10 years and the after effects are still there in the back of mind. Either way, whatever label you do or don’t use, I didn’t eat properly. I honestly can’t tell you what was the trigger, probably being at an all girls school didn’t help, probably having a negative self-image didn’t help, probably, probably, probably… the bottom line is that it was a control issue. People told me for years it was about control, I read books telling me it was about control but I refused to accept it, I said it was about the way I looked. And of course to a certain extent it was, but underlying it was more. In fact I think although I had counselling in my 20s for it, I would say that I have only accepted that it was about control in recent years.

So… for whatever reason, I stopped eating. Quite quickly actually. Although we were supposed to go to school lunch in the canteen, a few of us started bring in packed lunches, mine got smaller and often did not get eaten. I began counting calories in everything. I would calculate what I had eaten that day in terms of, one piece of bread or 3 crackers, that kind of thing. I was at an age where I retreated into my bedroom once I got in and I began to take my meals to my room, so that I could surrepticiously bin them. Hunger became a friend. If I didn’t feel hungry I didn’t feel good. And of course the less you eat the less hungry you feel after a while, so that just escalated. This went on for some years until I went travelling. Even now I am not sure what my parents thought or knew. I know my mum asked a close friend of mine at one point whether I was eating, but they never spoke to me about it. I became an expert at hiding things and to be honest I don’t think they knew how to speak to me.

At the worst point I had suicidal thoughts. Not enough to make me want to act on them, but I could not see a way out of how I was behaving except in death. I thought those feelings of self-hate would always be with me and I didn’t want that. Those who have read earlier posts in this blog about my background, know that I went off the rails at about age 17/18. That just exacerbated things. I already thought I was ugly, unattractive, unintelligent, had nothing going for me. So once drink and drugs were available to me that just fueled the whole thing. It was an escape, my life spiralled out of control. The one thing that got me back on track was getting pregnant at the age of 21, in Australia where I was backpacking. I know that was of God, because I look back and I honestly don’t know what would have happened to me if I didn’t stop, I was on such a self-destructive path. Getting pregnant changed my life. (not that it was divine intervention, I did have a part to play!)

Of course things were not all smooth from then on but something inside me willed me to eat for the sake of the baby. I did, and for a while I ate almost normally. But after she was born I had put on weight and all those old insecurities came back. Because of my daughter and the desire to get my life back on track it was not as bad as before but still lingering. Eventually a boyfriend (who was a nurse) pretty much sent me to counselling. It was very helpful and enabled me to look at why I might have begun this, what were the underlying issues. Thanks to counselling, whilst I know that those feelings of negative self image will always be with me, I know that it is under control and has been now for about 15 years. It’s like something that lurks in the back of my mind, and every now and then, especially if I put on a bit of weight, it rears its head and it is hard not to ignore it, but I know better now and I am better able to handle those feelings. Of course now I also have security in the fact that God made me this way, that he loves me for who I am and that any nagging thoughts of self-deprecation are not from him.

Eating disorders are very real and they can wreck lives. So please this week, spare a thought and a prayer for those who you may know suffering from one. It is not as simple as under eating or over eating, it is a life changing illness and requires help and understanding. ‘Beat’ has a great website with loads of info if you want to know more:  www.b-eat.co.uk/

And on a last note, I have posted this video before but it just speaks to me so much of Gods love for us and his pain when we don’t love ourselves as he does. When I saw this for the first time, I recognised myself in the position of the girl and I thank God so much for turning my life around, I thank him so much that he loves me even when I don’t like myself very much, that whatever I do he still loves me, and he made me just the way I am.

I want to change the world, in Jesus name…

This song from the latest Matt Redman album, ‘10,000 Reasons’ has really been speaking to me this week. It is such an amazing declaration of who God is and a powerful call for us to stand up and declare it, and whats more to take action!

I love that  line ‘Jesus in your name we could change the world’. It so inspires me to want to change the world. And really, is it that impossible? As he says, our God IS all he says he is and scripture tells us that for him nothing is impossible.

People do change the world all the time, Presidents and political leaders make decisions that change the world, Bill Gates is attempting to eradicate malaria,  people who are inspired by events in their lives start charities or organisations that help people.  And of course we all have the capacity to change the world in small ways in our own lives, by our own actions, but I want to think big, I want to think impossible. In fact I am sure that is what God is inpiring me to think about. I want a dream and a challenge that is so big it will only be possible if God is in control.

I want to change the world in His name…

“We Could Change The World”

Could we live like Your grace is stronger
Than all our faults and failures?
Could we live like Your love
Is deeper than our hearts can fathom
Could we live like this?

Could we live like Your name is higher
Than every other power?
Could we live like Your ways
Are wiser than our understanding?
Could we live like this?
Could we live like this?

Yes, our God is all He says, all He says He is
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world
We stand in Your love, in Your power
And all You say we are
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world

We believe that Your grace is stronger
Than all our faults and failures
We believe that Your love
Is deeper than our hearts can fathom
So could we live like this
And shine in all the world
Could we live like this?

Yes, our God is all He says, all He says He is
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world
We stand in Your love, in Your power
And all You say we are
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world

We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”
What else could we say, what else could we say?
We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”
We’re going all the way, we’re going all the way
We’re going to live like this

Yes, our God is all He says, all He says He is
Yes, our God is all He says, all He says He is

We’re going to live like this
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world
We believe, we believe
Jesus, in Your name we could change the world

An encounter…

Last night I had an experience that I have never had before, I believe it was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. I know for some this will make difficult reading, some will doubt it, some will be bemused, some will think I was overcome with emotion or making it up. Which is fine, because I have been there and thought all of those things about other people on occasion (for which I am sorry…). Not because I didn’t believe God could work like that, but just through my own human lack of understanidng and not being able to process it.

So last night I was at our evening service. The service was started specifically to have more space to seek God, with less barriers. As a team we have always felt that it was to be a blank canvas and that each week God would paint the canvas. And he has done. Last week was interesting for me personally, because throughout the evening I just had this overwhelming sense that God was so close to me that I could reach out and touch him, and yet I couldn’t quite do it, like there was something stopping me. It was I sat with my hands over my ears for most of the night. It was so frustrating that I couldn’t get there, but I knew God was doing something. And this week I have just felt so much closer to God, so hopelessly in love with him in a way I have never felt before. I have been given prophetic words, answers to prayer, scriptures talking to me so personally, like I have not experienced previously.

So it’s fair to say I was expectant for last nights service, I just knew God was going to show up. As it happened, some teaching had to be covered first and so we didn’t start worshipping and waiting on God until quite late in the evening, but when we did people felt moved. A couple of people felt Gods presence and then went round praying for people.

I began to shake, I could not stop. Only gently at first, but I could not stop it. I had to sit down, in fact I sort of fell in a heap, I just felt unable to stand. I wasn’t sure what to do, then I couldn’t sit still, and then the shaking got worse. I could not stop as much as I tried. I knew God was doing something and I wasn’t sure what, but I found I couldn’t even pray properly, I was just uttering the name of Jesus, and saying thank you over and again. Then after a while a friend came and stood behind me and said she felt to put her hands on me and pray. This is someone I trust completely. She is a very wise and mature Christian, she is not someone who gets carried away easily. As she prayed I began to laugh, then bent double, unable to stand and eventually fell in a heap on the floor, laughing uncontrollably and hardly able to breathe. I was completely overcome, all I could say was thank you Lord and call out Jesus’ name. In all of this I was able to slightly detach myself in my mind (can’t really describe it but this is the best I could come up with!) and I was thinking Lord, what are you doing? what is this about? And then it gave way to sobs. Not just a few tears but full on, chest heaving sobbing. By this stage I was on my knees and face down on the floor. In that moment I felt so unworthy, so aware of my own ‘unclean-ness’ in the face of, well I guess the face of God, but at the time I wasn’t quite sure what. Then that passed and I began to laugh again. I have no idea how long this went on for but it was a while.  Every time I began to think, ok I have this under control it would start again (I’m sure thats God’s sense of humour!)Gradually it passed and I began to feel calmer, but still a bit drunk.

Those who know me, will know that I am not the kind of person to ham things up, I have had my own doubts in the past about peoples behaviour like mine was last night, I guess through lack of understanding. I am not someone who would exaggerate things, and I do not regularly experience God in this kind of way. I know that it was something supernatural because it was so uncontrollable and like nothing I have ever experienced before.

So today I have been processing it all. If it weren’t half term I would have spent the entire morning in prayer. In the light of day it’s hard to fathom what happened. I know it was a touch from the Holy Spirit but why? That’s what is bugging me – what was God doing in me last night? What was all that about? Was it a case of releasing joy or giving me a realisation of my own nature? or is there more to follow?

I have been so hungry, so desperate for more of God, to experience him more fully, for ages. I have been crying out to him for more of his presence, of his love. And now here I am, having been touched by the Holy Spirit, (and I don’t just mean what happened last night, but throughout last week), and I don’t know what to do with it. I want to see the fruit of it, I want last night to be the start of God releasing more of himself, more of his love, not just in me, but in those around me, to see his love spread across our church and perhaps more importantly, across our communities.

I don’t want last night to be an experience that I remember fondly as something that happened once some years ago, I want to be able to say, ‘well, it all started there, that night when God released his Holy Spirit’.  What good is an experience like that if it doesn’t go anywhere?

A friend once told me about someone who years ago, had an experience with the Holy Spirit at their church. She would run around making animal noises, and when people remarked that it was strange, the Vicar just said, well we will see what the fruit is. And the fruit was huge, I believe she went on to work in prison ministry in pioneering ways.

Thats what my prayer is now, that this would not be a one off, that this would be the start of something. That we, as a church, would experience more of God and be filled up to overflowing, and that Gods love would flow out of us to those around us. That there would be good and abundant fruit. I don’t want to strive for more of Gods presence, but I am so hungry for more. I see the need around me and I just long for God to reach out to those who are in need. Please Lord let this be the start of that.

Moses and me…

God has really been speaking to me this week about His plans for me, (as opposed to my own plans for me!) Funny how so often we ask God to use us, but we have something specific in mind, we have our own interpretation. Then when he does give us something to do we say, ‘oh, not that, I’ll do something else, but not that’! How often are we prepared to do exactly what He is asking even when it might not be what we want?

I was reading Exodus this week and reminded of Moses and the burning bush. I was reading the passage and thinking wow, Moses was a bit of an idiot wasn’t he? the living God is speaking to him, giving him a task to do, and he is actually asking God to send someone else. How rude is that?! And just as I was thinking that I very firmly felt God saying to me, ‘well, isn’t that what you are doing?’… you see I have something to do this week that I have been stressing about and thinking, ‘I wonder if I can ask someone else to do it…’ And the thing is I know that if I do it, I will be worried, terrified, unsure, but also that God will use me and I will probably be blessed in return. If I don’t, not only am I offending God but I am also missing out on the chance to be used by him.

And in accepting that, I feel completely differently about the task in hand. I feel free to go, to be open to God, the fear has gone (well, almost!) and free to trust him completely. And I am rather enjoying that place :)

Being fearful is not something that God gives us. He might give us a challening situation, but he also gives us the strength, wisdom and knowledge to deal with it. My prayer is that I will remember that daily and that when I feel challenged my reaction in future will not be one of fear, but one of, ‘I will go Lord, where you lead me…’

Creator God

You know I love God, I believe in God, I live for God. But it hasn’t always been like that. In my ‘lost’ period, when I wasn’t sure what I believed I always knew there was ‘a’ god, because I would look around me at the beauty of creation and be in awe. It’s one thing I find hard to hear from atheists because when I look around me I think ‘how can you not believe?’ and I don’t need to hear the scientific reasons why they don’t believe in a creator, or why this molecule goes with that molecule, or why that organism survives because of that particular feature. I just see creation and I know God is there. that’s it.

My reading today was from Psalm 19, which I was delighted by because I had forgotten how much I love the beginning of this psalm:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Isn’t it so poetically beautiful?  just the very thought that all creation calls out the greatness of God just by being there. I love staring at the sky on a clear night and seeing all the stars. And you know, the more you look, the more you see.  It’s like the depth of the glory of God just seems to increase as I gaze on. And yet there are no words coming from the sky, no sound (save the odd airplane from Gatwick..;) ) but yet they sing out the awesomeness of God
I love that word – awesome – yes I know its rather American, but it’s just perfect to describe God – the online dictionary says this: Awe: an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like…

that is what I feel when I look at creation :)

A slightly different Ten Commandments…

My daughter brought home a slightly different version of the 10 commandments from church last week. I kind of like it and it certainly provoked discussion in our house!

On a hilltop at Sinai, God gave us rules to live….

1: Cos you need just one God, and that’s me
2: No love of things
3: Love God’s name
4: Sunday’s made for me
5: Parents need love
6: Murder is evil
7: Love should be loyal
8: Don’t steal from others
9: Do not tell lies
10: Don’t envy people

Priorities in the church

Warning: rant following.. I make no apologies…

So I’m actually not all that interested in General Synod. I know I should be but really I’m not. I am following the tweets (hashtag #synod) but it’s not actually that exciting. It seems to be a place where t’s are crossed and i’s dotted. Decisions seem to actually be made well before synod happens. It seems to be a debating chamber in name only. (That is my unknowledgable and  inexperienced opinion, so feel free to shoot me down. It’s just my observation…)

It seems perfectly obvious  to me that women bishops will be ‘allowed’ in the near future. We have reached that point in the decade old debate that resistance is futile.Really I find it staggering that this is such an issue. If you don’t like it, go join those exiting via a conveniently invented Catholic loophole. There, Peter Mullen is your space ‘for those conscientiously opposed to the consecration of women bishops’, off you trot, I am sure the ordinariate will welcome you…

Seriously, I wonder why on earth I want to work in to the Church of England sometimes. I really wish someone would recognise how important a role the CofE has in our country. I wish someone would stand up and say, we are here to represent JESUS. We are here to be Jesus to those around us. We are here to to be a living example of what Christ did for us all.
The CofE has a prominent position in this land. Almost every city, town and village has a Parish Priest, and almost every (if not every) city, town, and village has Christians living within it. What other organisation has such a position within our nation?

What are we waiting for? I want someone to stand up and say, how are we going to be Jesus to those around us? I want someone to stand up and say that Christ can transform not only us, but our nation? I want someone to stand up and say, ‘love each other’, I want someone to give the battle cry, to rally the church and the Christians of this nation to actually be Christ to those around them. I want someone to stand up and call for us to unify our Church. For goodness sake, how long will the church tear itself apart over issues like women bishops of Homsexuality? Oh, look I am not belittling the debates going on, of course they need to happen, the church needs to look forward, it needs reform, but why does so much more energy get put into these debates than actually spreading the love of God?

In an age where church numbers are declining, (please don’t cite me that string of articles that came out just after Christmas saying the opposite); where poverty is rising; where areas of the world are being torn apart by famine, by war and civil unrest, and disease; where young people are so undervalued that youth budgets are being cut dramtically, where people feel so aggrieved that they start riots in their own back yards, where our own neighbours are hurting, broken and lost; why is that the church is not at the forefront of leading us all to change?

Sorry if your are doing wonderous things in your parish, this is more about the leadership of our church rallying the troops!