BLOG BIRTHDAY!!

Literally just realised today is the third anniversary of this blog TODAY! which also means it’s 3 years since I was so inspired by my new journey of faith that I had to write about it! Can’t believe it has been 3 years. 

So that’s 3 years, 467 posts, 1039 comments and 46,165 page views.. yikes! Thanks so much to everyone who reads my mutterings and for all the input…

When I first started writing it was all about our encounter with Jesus and coming back to faith in a big way. Very soon after that I felt called into ministry, subsequently was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue. I sold my business, went to see the DDO, took time out. Did some volunteering with our church  and then got a ‘proper’ job at church. I got selected for training, took a year break and now am approaching the time when I will actually start training to be a Vicar (eek!)

I can’t believe how much God has done in the last 3 years, for me, for my husband, for us as a couple and for my family. It has been a totally crazy 3 years and yet totally amazing.
About 4 years ago we had stopped going to church. 3 1/2 years ago we met a builder who told us all about his faith, and from that we had our own encounter with Jesus. My husband and I have joked about how different we both are and how we think about things so differently now. God gave me the words  volte face  which seem to describe these changes amazingly well. But above all it’s like our lives have purpose now, we know what journey we are on, even if we don’t know the destination! I can’t tell you how wonderful that is and how peaceful.  I have no idea what the next 3 years will entail but I know that Jesus will be at the centre and with him we will have amazing adventures!

Anyway I’m not going to do a whole rehash here, everything that has happened has been documented on here and there are some links highlighted above. If you want to know more, feel free to comment or tweet me!

and THANKS again !!

#TeamEsther

So this weekend it is the Jewish festival of Purim, a festival that celebrates the rescue of the Jewish people from a plot to kill them by the Kings aide, Haman. A plot that was overcome thanks to Mordecai and his cousin Esther. (You can read it all in the Book of Esther.)   I absolutely love the book of Esther, it’s not a book that is commonly read or taught on, and it’s Old Testament, but for women it’s a must read!  I mean it’s like a fairy story, the beautiful young queen overcomes trials, fear and separation from her family to become the hero of the day and save her people. Disney couldn’t do any better than that!

So the story begins with King Xerxes, having banished his previous Queen from his presence, after drunkenly demanding she come and be shown off to all his mates and her refusing (that probably tells you all you need to know about him). It’s quite funny really and I don’t blame her either, can you imagine, having a nice meal with your girlfriends (the bible says she had thrown a banquet for the women) when your drunk husband demands you dress up and come and parade before his equally drunken and probably lecherous friends so he can show you off? I know what my answer would be (although my husband wouldn’t be so foolish or sexist to ask in the first place!)

So then the King decides he needs a new queen and demands that beautiful young virgins are brought from across the land into his harem, so that he can choose one (after they have undergone extensive beauty treatments of course… nice.) I think we can safely assume that the young girls and their parents had little choice in this.

So Esther, who we are told has a great figure and was beautiful (bit Miss World, eh!?) was drafted into the harem. Esther is truly the Cinderella of the piece, having no parents of her own and being brought up by her Uncle Mordecai. Although there must have been benefits to being in the palace clearly Mordecai was worried and we are told that he walked around near the harem each day to see how she was doing. He needn’t have worried, because Esther clearly had God on her side and won the favour of all who saw her – the bible says:

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Esther further improves her position after Mordecai discovers a plot to kill the king and tells Esther so she can warn the King.

Meanwhile, the King had an assistant, Haman, who turns out to be the evil villain of the story, with some similarities to Aladdins ‘Jafar’ ! Mordecai disliked Haman and so just as any true villain does, Haman plots to do away with him, but not just Mordecai, his entire race. Mu-hahahaha… ;)

And so Haman proceeds, in true evil villain style, to convince the King, by lying and not giving him the full picture that all Jews should be killed. Mordecai, distraught (as I imagine you would be..) asks Esther to petition the King about this dreadful edict and although she must put herself at great risk, she agrees to speak to the King. First however she asks all Jews in the area to fast for 3 days and she and her courtiers do so as well. She then invites the King to a banquet and asks for her people to be spared:

If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.

Of course the King asks who has done this wicked thing and Haman gets his comeuppance. Not only that, but having laid a plan to have himself honoured and Mordecai killed, as all good fairy-tale-villains do, he becomes a victim of his own evil plan with Mordecai being honoured, Haman put to death and the Jews saved by Royal edict.
What a fabulous story!  Esther really is a bit of a Cinderella, brought up her her loving uncle, and then taken away to the Kings harem at probably a very young age, her life would not have been her own to live. But she was faithful, she was honouring to those over her, she did as she was asked, she just trusted. And she was honoured in return, she became the Queen! Rags to riches, in the face of adversity… And then when the evil Haman tries to overthrow her people, she knew that to approach the King was to face the very real risk of death, or as her predecessor discovered, banishment. One can only imagine what this could have meant, going from Kings favourite to least, in a moment. Having received the utmost attention and care, being the chosen one, and being in a harem with a load of other women – can’t have been easy and you can imagine how they would have treated her had she been banished from the Kings sight!

But she overcame that fear, and sought God. Not only herself, but she encouraged those around her, and all local Jews, to gather and fast too. She knew that if she was to succeed she would need God to intervene. What a woman of faith.

The debate on women in church leadership will go on and on but it’s stories like this that make me proud to be a Christian woman and proud to be one in church leadership. If our predecessors stood up for their people, effectively for their fellow believers, in such circumstances, in the face of evil, in the face of extreme personal danger, and then stood proud; well I am proud to do the same. And it’s stories like this that make me so infuriated when parts of the church say that women are not ‘allowed’ to lead. Well, if Esther hadn’t taken the lead her people would all have been killed. Men, women and children. A great example of a woman in a position of influence, stepping up to be a leader at great personal risk. How can you not honour that?

I want my daughters to grow up knowing this story inside out. That they are strong women of God and in his name they can achieve anything. That they need not fear, even when all around them seems lost. That they are not at the mercy of men like Haman, or even the King, but that they have the power to stand up and make a difference.
#TeamEsther

What is Community?

At church we’re going through a ‘vision process’ at the mo, just re-adressing where we are and what is God saying to the church for the next season. It’s been an interesting few months. I don’t think I am speaking out of turn by saying that there have been tears, laughter, much prayer, consideration, hurt feelings, revelations but above all a strong desire to go where God is leading us.

Part of that has been looking at being more missional, reaching out more to our communities and what that means for us as individuals and us as a church. And that is not at all clear cut!

Community for me is the place I live, it’s the people I say hello to on the walk to school, it’s the mums at the school gate, or at tennis club, or ballet, it’s the people in the village cafe, the locals at the pub. I work for the church (and of course that is part of my community, although not physically) but for the main I live in a village and my kids have been at school here, their friends are largely here, we often socialise here (in fact before we joined our church my life was almost wholly based here). These are the people I see almost daily, the people I chat to at the park or the school gate, often the people we spend time with. But for my husband, although I know he lives living here, it’s not the same. He has a ‘boys club’ that meets at the pub once a month but for the most part he spends most of his time at work. And he doesn’t even see the same people each day, he works in various places. For him he spends far more time with people from church than he does anywhere else, so his main community is the church one.

For some who commute or work full time, their community might be those they spend the train journey with each day, or their work colleagues.

I find being in a village as we are, a real community, it’s a place where people look out for  each other, say hello to one another and so on. But as a colleague pointed out the other day, not everyone has that. Those who live in towns maybe don’t have such a strong sense of pull to their geographical area. We have friends who live in a lovely small close in a big town and it could be a wonderful place where the kids play out and have fun with each other, and yet they say people keep themselves to themselves, they don’t really know their neighbours. Which seems such a shame. Perhaps it is just a different mentality. I mean, of the people who live here, some have lived here all their lives or they have family connections here, yet in the towns, especially those near commuter stations, many of those living there come because of the amenities, the station etc.

So as a church how do we address this? How can we ‘do community’ in  a way that reaches all? or at least allows for all these differentiations?

In our church we encourage people to get into small groups, for support, fellowship and bible study. This helps people who maybe don’t have a natural community around them but is it enough?  What about those who can’t do a mid week group – maybe they get back late from work?  I’m really keen on social events partly for this purpose, and we encourage our volunteer teams to get together for socials each term, so they can spend time together outside of the busyness at church!

Aside from that, are our small groups reaching out? Are we reaching out? Are we impacting our geographical communities? If we meet in small groups in places other than where we live then being missional, reaching out, is much harder because we don’t have a shared sense of identity about the location.

And these are all the things we are grappling with. All the things I am grappling with! I’m currently reading ‘Launching Missional Communities’ by Mike Breen and Alex Absolom. It is such an eye opener! There are many things that are actually so obvious but just haven’t occurred to us!

One of the things that has really stood out to me, is that a community is one where the members have a shared interest or passion. That’s such a simple definition but seems to cover all bases. So that interest might be your geographical community, the place where you all live, or it might be a shared passion for an activity like walking or art and craft, or it could be your family needs, kids of the same age etc. And I think this really is they key to a community, that if the members come together in this way, their interest in their activity or area etc will be fuelled by their own passions, that they can feed off each other and encourage each other, that they are led by those desires, from within, rather than being led by the church.

It’s certainly an interesting time for us and an exciting one too. No decisions have been made yet but there are lots of interesting and exciting ideas being discussed. I can feel the interest being piqued within the church, people are getting enthused, passions are being ignited. And I can’t wait to see where God takes us with all this!

Your Kingdom Come…

Preach from Sun 3rd Feb. Passage, Luke 11:1-13

As always, sorry if this is not entirely intelligible, this comes from my first draft which I then make into notes and usually ignore half of them anyway when I talk…! Questions welcomed…
You can’t stress the important of the Lords Prayer enough, the very fact alone that it is called The Lords Prayer should be enough! it’s Jesus’ prayer. It’s the one he told us to say.  The disciples asked him how shall we pray and this was his answer.
as Will said last week it is thought to be one of the most well known set of words in the entire world. 
But with that comes familiarity too. and sometimes that’s good, I’m sure most of us could recite the Lords prayer without thinking too hard about it. Probably our kids can do too. I imagine those who are not regular church goers might find that too. It is something we learn at school, we say at official functions, maybe even in the workplace. but I wonder if in a way it’s become too familiar, that we say it, recite it without even thinking.
If you pray the Lords prayer, do you actually think about the words? do you actually consider what they say? what they mean? 
These are words that the disciples asked Jesus, ‘teach us to pray’. Jesus taught them this directly and in this way we are repeating his own words, how much we can learn from him in just this prayer.
In fact there is so much you could say about the Lords prayer but I want to focus mainly on the line ‘Your Kingdom Come’ and what that might mean for us. When we pray that, what does it mean to us?
Your kingdom come – God, let your kingdom come on earth, let things here be as they are where you are. How powerful is that?
In the traditional version on the prayer we  say: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.
as it is in heaven – we are asking for life here to be like it is in heaven. Isn’t that the very core of our faith, to be seeking to be Godlike, Christ-like, heaven-like right here, and right now?
phew! awesome!
and that is in the prayer that is the most well known set of words in the world….. Imagine if whenever anyone prayed it they prayed it with a real heart and desire for it to be true – wow, who knows what might happen, imagine how powerful that would be!
But do we? I mean what does that line mean to you? I’ll tell you what it means to me…
My heart is to see the power and love of Gods kingdom, right here, in my life, right now. seeing people around me transformed, seeing people meeting with Jesus in his kingdom, seeing Gods kingdom come on this earth. 
Thats I what that line means to me… it’s repeating the very essence of what I believe, your kingdom come. your will be done. God is in control, he is sovereign, we are seeking him and his will for our lives and our world.
But it doesn’t always happen quite like that does it?  I mean I’m aiming for the skies. Yes of course God is always with us, his kingdom is all around us, but we don’t often see it in all its fullness, we don’t see regular real manifestations of Gods kingdom right here and now. In the bible, when Jesus heals people, he says Gods kingdom has drawn near to you or the kingdom of heaven is within you… that says to me that miracles like Jesus performed show us a slice of Gods kingdom, a place where people are not sick or unhappy or demonised…
When Jesus says to pray ‘your kingdom come’  (or may your will be done as it is in heaven) he is telling us to ask for the kingdom and all that entails.
What does the kingdom look like?
the bible says” it is a kingdom that will never be destroyed.. it will endure forever (daniel 2:44)
it is a kingdom that cannot be shaken – hebrews 12:28
God calls us to his kingdom 1 Thess 2:12
we share in the inheritance of his kingdom colossians 1:12
it is….. righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,  Rom 14:17
and one of my faves:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 1 Cor 4:20
It’s interesting that Jesus shares this prayer and then follows it right away with 2 examples of persistance or ‘boldness’ as some translations say.
The guy knocking at his neighours door – and his friend inside – ‘man I’m in bed, we’re all tucked up, I don’t want to have to come down to the door’. I’m sure we all know that feeling, nice warm bed, about to drop off, perhaps the phone rings. Of course the last thing you want to do is answer it but chances are it might be important.  What if that phone call was your neighbour asking for some bread – you might be a bit annoyed but chances are we would go and give them some. I don’t know about you but if my neighbour knocked on my door late at night I would think, thats odd, must be important right? that’s what Jesus is saying – the boldness of the guy knocking is the key. If he’d sat at home, thinking well I can’t go next door its too late they wont answer the door he would have got nothing… You have to try! You have to persist. 
The dictionary says that to persist is:
  1. To be obstinately repetitious, insistent, or tenacious. 
well I want to be obstinately repetitious for my God and King.
also says:
  1. To hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.
despite those: the setbacks... I mean that’s the key isn’t it. we pray for these amazing things to happen and then what if they don’t? well we question don’t we? “oh well what does Gods kingdom really mean?can he really heal? can he really speak to us today? does he really love us…? is he really there…?”
YES!!! he is, he can and he does. But we have to holdfast to that belief when it is not outwardly apparent.
How many of us have had amazing experiences or an encounters with God in prayer? perhaps someone has prayed for you, you’ve been to an event, or you have had something happen to you in your own prayer time by yourself. you know what I mean, sometimes we have those amazing encounters that seem to change the whole essence of your world. God reveals to you something in such a powerful way that you can’t help but be fired up. You want more, you can’t get enough. 
but what happens? the enemy comes to steal, kill, destroy.... something happens, your prayer isn’t answered, theres a tragic occurence. what does Jesus say? don’t give up!! press in more. don’t let the NME take away the glory.
It’s so easy to fall back. sometimes the last thing you want to do or feel able to do is pray and yet in those times its probably when you need to most…. 
Shortly after I had a big experience/renewal of faith etc I got ill, ended up with exhaustion. I never stopped loving God, but sometimes I was pretty cross with him, couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting healed. for 18  mths there was no improvement.  repented/had prayer/ words spoken over me….  but nothing shifted. and Some days I just found it so hard to pray. I was tired, had no energy, would wake up feeling just as tired as when I went to bed. I usually pray first thing, and yet back then I would wake up just not being able to pray. It wasn’t even that I didn’t want to, I just found it hard.
But you know what, I tried to battle through. Because the victory is already ours. The devil cannot win a battle against us, because they are all already won, Jesus did that for us.
 And those days where I did pray first thing, before doing anything else, were so much better than the ones where I didn’t. Took me a while to realise that unfortunately. there is something about giving your all that is so powerful. Giving to God out of pain, or weakness. i mean what does the bible say – when i am weak, He is strong…
and starting the day in prayer just is such an amazing thing to do, even now I find that each day is so much more peaceful if I pray first. 
But for some of us, or in some situations disappointment in prayer or unanswered prayer can be the thing that just stops us from persisting. Last year, as many of you will know, we prayed for our friend Nix, who was suffering from cancer. We prayed for healing. When it became terminal we still prayed for healing. We believed wholeheartedly that God would heal her. Towards the end we prayed 24/7 in the summerhouse in her garden. We prayed right up to the last. And when she died we prayed for God to raise her.
because we believe that God can do that. we believed that God can heal, that God, the all powerful, sovereign king can overcome a terminal diagnosis, can overcome death. because he’s done it already. 
There were people praying all over the world for Nix. There were masses of prophetic words telling of her future, of plans that God had for her. She went to Bethel church is the States and had an amazing encounter with someone there who didn’t know her or her situation but spoke life over her in great detail. 
We believed God was going to act.
But he didn’t heal her and he didn’t raise her. Lovely Nix passed away, leaving her husband and 3 wonderful children behind. 
I can’t tell you why that happened. I can’t tell you that we didn’t pray hard enough or in the right way or that we heard God wrong. because I don’t think any of that is true. We did everything we could, everything we thought God was saying.  And despite what happened, I still believe that God heals today, I even believe that God wanted to heal her. I don’t believe that it was Gods intention for her to suffer and die as she did. But something happened, after all we live in a world where (1 Peter)
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour..
I cannot tell you why Nix died. I cannot say why God did not step in and heal her. But I still believe he can. I still believe Gods word, in Matthew, the Great commission, Jesus says to his disciples, 
therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you to do.
everything I have commanded you to do…. well he told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast our demons etc  (Matthew 12) freely you have received, freely give.
So we have to do what he told us to.
In the aftermath of Nixs death I know I wasn’t the only one struggling. and we were friends but it wasn’t like I had lost my best mate. but the pain was more in the fact that we believed in God for his kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven, and as we saw it, it hadn’t. (I’m not saying it hadn’t, but certainly not as we expected)
But in all of that, that is probably one of the times I have felt most close to God, because we were with him, seeking him, hours each day. Man if you want to know God more, just get in his presence more. Without wishing to sound crass, that was amazing. I received some amazing words of revelation from God during that time, like never before and possibly like it never will be.
in the hurt, I would do it all again. I will persist.
I have seen small amounts of healing, I have seen friends who don’t know God be touched by the holy spirit,  but I want more, this is small fry!
I don’t want to at all sound insensitive here, eg Nix family – unanswered prayer can be soul wrenchingly painful, when life or death is at stake, it takes a great deal to believe and it takes a great deal more to believe when you’ve given everything and it doesn’t happen.
is painful, it feels isolating, lonely, like God is ignoring you,
unanswered prayer can be crippling to ones faith. 
But, it’s how we deal with that that can be so vital. If we give up, if we stop petitioning God or speaking to him, how do you think he feels. Perhaps we are in the most devastating and painful place we have ever been, and we shut him out, we are angry with him, we don’t want to listen. 
But he wants to love us, comfort us, help us in our pain. The bible says that 
You keep track of all my sorrows.[b]
   
 You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8
Isaiah: For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
he is the `God of all comfort’
if we shut him out we are shutting the door to his kingdom.
Persisting in prayer isn’t always about dealing with pain, sometimes its just having the faith to continue praying for something for years if need be, even when you see no response.
St Peters, example: when opened, woman who had prayed for her husband al her life. When the church reopened he came, heard the word and got saved…
woo!
Phi’ls family – met some of his cousins at a family party and they told us that their parents had been been praying for him and his brother for the moment they were born….
If it takes years for a prayer to be answered, does it make it any less answered?!
So, when we pray your kingdom come, what are we asking for?
I’m asking for people to be healed, for lives to be transformed, for miracles to happen. 
I guess I want to say to you today, what are you praying for? I saw Angus Buchan talk once and he said if your vision doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough! Are we praying scary prayers? are we praying for the biggies? or are we playing it safe.
I feel like I have had little glimpses of what that means. A powerful time of prayer, or seeing someone healed of a dodgy foot. but just that, a glimpse. Well I tell you, I want more, I’m not settling for that. I want to see your kingdom come…
well I for one don’t want a safe, easy life.
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. luke 12:32
Our father has been pleased to give us the kingdom – his kingdom. What? I mean God has given us access to his kingdom? do we even begin to know what that means? Have we even begun to see what that means, to experience it?

Prayer

So this weekend I’m preaching on prayer, really excited about it actually, I think God has given me a great message. But when I was prepping for the talk, the first thing I always do is pray, and out of that I felt God giving me some words… this, below, is what came out.  Man, I Love God.



Prayer


Prayer is a conversation.
not one way, but feels a lot like that sometimes.


Prayer is having Gods undivided attention. Not engaged, not on hold, not the 27th person in the queue, prayer is getting straight through when the line doesn’t even ring.


Prayer is solid, dependable, words on a page, liturgical, lyrical, it’s rhythmic, routine.


It’s out of kilter, out of line, stand up on the restaurant table and shout at the top of your voice.


Prayer is a weapon, a fighting tool… 
a comfort blanket, a hot water bottle, 


It’s rough and ready, its harsh, it’s loud angry shouting, 
it’s quiet and soft, whispering in the ear of a loved one, it’s gentle singing, it’s worshipping the most amazing wonderful person that one could ever even begin to imagine.


Prayer is being tucked up under the duvet, needing a fix to even move one toe out into the cold harsh world.


Prayer is a longing, a desire, an unquenchable fire burning within and unable to get out.



Prayer is in the mud, in the dirt, getting covered from head to toe, in the grime, in the gutter, a desperate plea, just a few words uttered,


help me.


Prayer is stepping out of those grubby clothes, in a warm bath, bubbles, rose petals, it’s soothing, it’s gentle, soaking. 


Prayer is the beautiful tune of a lover singing to their beloved.  
It’s the most intimate thoughts that we share with no one. It’s the things that shame us, the things that define us, the things that no other living soul knows.


Prayer is the most dramatic, fantastic, all consuming, loving welcome: come on in, this house is your house, kick back, enjoy…



Prayer is a child curled up on their dads lap, arms encircling, loving, blessing, soothing, warming.


Prayer is crying out together in defiance. in pain, in love, in desperation. It’s standing alongside each other, battling, warriors, in unison in our pain.


Prayer is angry, ‘what do you want from me’, where are you?, why have you forsaken me? 


Prayer is sobbing, streaming, making a scene, it’s unattractive.


Prayer is laughter, hysterical, screaming, uncontrollable, giggling.


It’s wailing, longing, seeking, needing, begging…


Prayer is indulgent, it’s selfish, self seeking, self-serving, 
It’s soaking, enjoying, drowning in love, like a depth of love you have never known


Prayer is burning desire, unquenchable, out of control.


It’s like breathing, like water, it’s daily bread.


Prayer is being at one. being at peace.  


Prayer is: encountering God.