About Me

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Resourcing the church

One thing I feel a real heart for is resourcing or helping out smaller, or sometimes called 'failing', churches. I am sure this is part of my particular calling but I do think it's something that larger or more 'successful' churches should be doing more of. If you are in a church that is thriving and doing well, it is far better for the Kingdom to help out other churches that are not doing so well, than to look down ones nose at them and sneer at what they are not doing.

I recently asked a friend of mine who works for the Diocese what we could do as a church to have a bigger profile in the diocese, including helping out other churches. We are a reasonably large church and have many gifted people within our congregation as well as practical resources. An opportunity came up for us to send a small team to a small parish church 15 or so miles from here to help run a family day. This is a small church with not many of the younger generation in the congregation, although the village itself has 2 schools and many families living locally. Partly I suspect this is due to a thriving charismatic church in the next village, but also I think it is because the Vicar just doesn't know what to do to reach out to the unchurched. That isn't a criticism of him at all, just that he's out of ideas, doesn't have much time and just needed a boost of enthusiasm and input from those who could help. I am sure that this is the situation for many clergy; time is limited and for many they just don't know where to look to get help or ideas. It is these people who are willing and open to try new things, but just don't know where to start that we can really help.

Prayer Bunting
This particular church had decided to run a family day and invite people in to have fun, a great idea, but they didn't know where to start or what to do. I found out that they had a willing band of 5 or so ladies who ran the Sunday School who seemed very keen so we decided to divide the day into 2 halves. The morning with fun and games and we hired a Christian magician to do a show, and in the afternoon we ran a Messy Church session. We managed to get a missional grant for £250 from the diocese and ran the whole thing for just under that, which included stocking up on resources they could use in the future.

In the end just 5 of us went to run the day which was plenty, plus their Sunday School helpers. My friend from the diocese and I went into the local infant school and did an assembly to tell them about the event and we made flyers which went out to both schools, nursery groups, library and family centre. Everywhere we made contact with about the event was really enthusiastic which was great. We also made sure we made contacts across the village including running some simple competitions for the kids which we asked local businesses to judge. 

Parachute games in the church yard
In all about 50 people came, which was the perfect number, any more and we would have been swamped! And 6 new families came to the church which the Vicar was delighted by. The best thing was that everyone said how much fun they had!

I made sure that before we started the Messy Church session I spoke to the Sunday School ladies about what we were doing and why, I showed them the resources we had and told them how they could run it again, making sure they knew where to order craft bits and telling them about the Messy Church website for ideas and resources. By the end of the day they were all saying, we must do this again! And planning another family day for later in the year.

Another simple thing I did in advance was to ask friends if they had any board games they didn't want any more (for Messy church) and we had quite a haul to donate to them in the end.

In all this took comparatively little preparation time but yet was hugely successful, and resourced them to run something like this again.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Reflection on 'Twilight'

This week I spoke to a group of teenagers at a local school. They have a Chrisitan Union kind of club which meets weekly and each speaker shows a film clip and talks on it related to Christianity. This is my reflection from Twilight, as always it's from my notes so sorry for any bad grammar...

I showed a clip near the end that finishes with Bella saying this:
I’d never given much thought to how I would die but dying in the place of someone I love seems like a good way to go...’

What a great line and is very similar to this fro John 15:13 (NIV)
'Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.'

SO what is love all about that it can be so strong that one person would lay down their life for another?
That is true love, to lay down one’s life and that is what Jesus did for every single one of us. He died in our place. Did you know that? Jesus wasn’t just a baby who was born in a barn, he actually died for every single one of us and he would have done it if you were the only person on the planet. Pretty full on right?
The bible says that God IS love. 
I think that when God created humans (whether you look at it from an allegorical point of view or word for word) he did so out of love. To share what he had. To love is to receive as well as give. We often talk about giving being the best thing but true love is a mutual thing. I think God wanted to love - to give it away but also to receive it - he wanted a relationship with us.
And love is meant to be shared, by it’s very nature it is not something that can be held in, when you love someone you want to be with them, you want to talk about them, can’t stop thinking about them. Love is to be shared.
It is also something that we need, that we desire. We want to be with others, we want to be loved. I think it is inherent in who we are as human beings. We have a need to be in relationship with others. It’s unlikely we’ll ever have to give our life for a friend - in the armed forces maybe - but we will probably be in situations where we do things out of love or act in love, that would seem irrational to others.
The problem is, as humans, it doesn’t always work out right. We let each other down, we say mean things, we hurt people, and we get let down, others do it to us, we get hurt, and so our view of love gets distorted and we end up looking for it in the wrong places.
we often get confused, we mistake others things for love. The bible says this about love:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails
hmm can we all say we adhere to that?
So I thought I’d tell you a bit about myself and how it took me a long time to realise what true love looks like. Because we all have a distorted view of love, based on our own experiences.
I was brought up going to church and I am sure that my parents love me, but for whatever reason I grew up feeling that I wasn’t loved. I am not going to blame my parents for this, because they were great, and I am a parent now and I know how hard it is! You just try and do your best. So it's not that they did anything wrong, I just believed that I wasn't really worthwhile. At school I was creative where the school was quite academic, so I didn’t get much support there either.
Anyway, when I was about 16 I started to ‘go off the rails’. I guess it started because I didn’t really like who I was. I stopped eating, I thought I was fat, I didn’t like the way I looked. I didn’t feel affirmed in who I was. I was trying to be someone else. I started dressing differently, went a bit ‘alternative’ - tie-dye, dreads, ripped clothes etc.
I went to art college at 1, and I started hanging out with a different crowd where I felt accepted. I thought that these people were my true friends, that they understood me, but I know now as I look back, they didn’t really know the real me as I was trying so hard to be someone else. But at the time I didn’t realise that, and as I got more and more in with this group I got into other stuff too, we drank a lot, did drugs. It started out with a bit of pot, but then there was other stuff on offer and so I took it - I wanted to fit in I guess.
At 19 I had a place to go to uni and at the last minute I decided not to go and I went travelling instead. Needless to say my parents were not exactly happy about this and that probably added to my desperation to get away. Now, it's perfectly normal to want to leave home at 18, not everyone does it because they are struggling, but for me it was trying to escape what I felt about myself, and of course I just took that with me. 
During that time, I got into some pretty stupid situations. And I’m going to tell you this because sometimes you can hear stories of young people doing stupid things and you think, they must be pretty thick, or uneducated or stupid to do that, but I was well educated, I came from a good home, I was not stupid. The truth is it’s actually really easy to be led astray. It doesn’t take much!
I would walk home by myself in foreign cities at 3 in the morning, I bought drugs from a guy on the street that I didn’t know, I took drugs from people in clubs that I didn’t know. I wasn’t eating and was living off a diet of houmous and pittas, with the odd cup a soup!
I was desperate to be loved and I looked for that love in the wrong men...
Eventually I ended up pregnant. I was in Australia, 12,000 miles from home, with a guy who was an alcoholic and certainly didn’t love me. I had no money, I didn’t have a job at that time, no one to help me, to be honest I didn’t think the baby would survive with all the stuff I had been doing. But it did and I knew I had to keep it, it was kind of like a wake-up call. I totally believe that God sent me that wake up call. And I don’t mean that he got me pregnant by some kind of divine conception, no! but if my life hadn’t changed right then I honestly don’t know what would have happened, it was a really destructive path.
Anway I did come home, I called up my mum who paid for a ticket and that was the beginning of a change in  my life. Like God was on my case... Things changed, I had my daughter and eventually I met a nice guy, we got married had 2 more kids... But I still seeking something. We finally had an experience where we encountered God truly and had a realisation of who he is and how much he loves us and now it’s like I can’t get enough!
The truth is that we can only find that true love that we need in God. What we have here is a reflection, if you like, of how God loves us, and reflections can be distorted. He is the only one who will, and has, truly laid down his life for us in true love.
I spent much of my life getting distracted and pulled away from God by the things I thought would make me a better person or the things that I thought might make people like me more, and ended up getting sucked into a downward spiral. I thank God that he didn’t give up on me... Because he is always there. Always wants a relationship with us no matter what we have done or who we are.

I finished with this clip which I have blogged before buy I love it, and it was a perfect way to end this talk...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

I love the Church of England !

So that might be a slightly strange title for a post, but it's true. Now that isn't to say that I agree with everything that the church does, nor does it mean I agree with everything it says, but I am rather fond of it. And the reason I am writing this now is because my love for it has just been rekindled after a slightly rocky few months, where, had it continued we might have been considering separation... Ok perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but it has been a difficult few months, I wrote a bit about it here and I don't really want to dwell on it but basically I was struggling a bit with my calling, being in the CofE, and other things. I have been coming out of that and I have confirmed my place at college for September so it wasn't all bad!

Anyway, I digress, so this week I went to the HTB Leadership Conference which was ace, and you can say what you like about HTB, (and don't bother to do it here please) but they are doing a fantastic thing in this church that I love so much. The teaching and the speakers were just fantastic. One guy who I had not heard of before, Steven Furtick, was particularly inspiring. 

So on the second day I met up with a Vicar friend of mine at lunchtime, who asked about my progress, and I was having a bit of a moan and they sympathised and seemed to imply some similar moans. So there we were having a bit of moan about this diocese when Steven Furtick comes on to speak. His talk was called 'Your Calling is Calling' - I hadn't know this in advance, and he proceeded to tell us all to stop moaning about where we are and get on with what God has called us to. My friend and I shared a few knowing glances during his session! I mean, talk about divine timing...  His talk was amazing with some really insightful stuff and very stirring.

Couple that with the Archbishop of Canterbury's interview the day before, which gave me such amazing hope for this wonderful church of ours. That man is a legend and I'm truly excited to see how he shapes the CofE of the future...

And then add into the mix the fact that this whole thing was put on by an Anglican church, yes it has become a bit of a machine but I'm not sure how many other Anglican churches are so successful and reaching so many people with the Gospel...

and so I came away from this conference renewed with love for my church, filled up with hope for the future and so proud to be part of it. Can't wait to get to college now!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Prayer & Healing

So this morning I preached on prayer and healing. I cut quite a lot of what I was going to say so that we would have plenty of time to actually pray for people! Here is the full (ish) version for anyone who is interested... (For info, when I preach I write whatever I feel God giving me, out in full first then I reduce it to notes, with highlights to remind me. This is the first draft so it's not exactly what I said but gives an idea! 

I want to start by saying, or reiterating, that we are a church that believes God can heal. We might not have a statement of beliefs or a doctrine as such, but as a church we believe that the power of the Holy Spirit reigns in us, as Gods adopted sons and daughters. I know some people struggle with the idea, or might have theologically different ideas, but that is the point we are coming from as a church. So I’m not going to make any excuses for talking about healing again, or from talking about the fact that God can heal. ok?
Now we had a tough year last year, 3 key church members died. I know that has knocked some of us, and we have talked about that from out the front here, but I really don’t want to focus on that, I want us to move on from that... Not to belittle the grief or pain that any of us may feel, but what I mean, is that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and the glory and goodness that he brings. If we dwell on what we think he hasn’t done we will get stuck in that place. We have to focus on HIM.
So today I am telling you that God can heal and God does heal. No apologies. That is God’s truth.
PASSAGE: 1 Cor 12: 8-10
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b]
We’ve talked a lot recently about the spiritual gifts, part of our theme on prayer. And its important to recognise that God gifts all of us differently, after all we are all parts of one body and if we were all the same or had the same gifts we would be an unbalanced body. I’m really excited that next term we are going to be looking much deeper at Spiritual gifts and how God gifts us all, because we all need to work together, to our strengths...
Whilst each of us might have a very specific calling, or a gift that is to be used more, it doesn’t mean the rest of us sit back and say, ‘oh thats not for me...’ We all have Jesus within us so we all have the capability to pray for healing. 
So as an example some members of our church have really felt God calling them to be praying for healing and so they have set up their once a month Sunday evening session. Which is amazing, God has clearly spoken to them and they have acted upon it. But does that we mean we all stand back and say, to anyone who is poorly, or needs prayer, of you need to wait until the next monthly meeting to get prayer for healing? does it?
No of course not, we pray in faith for whoever needs it. For faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Just because we haven’t seen anyone miraculously healed of blindness or had a arm grow back, we still have faith, right? which is: the substance of things HOPED for and the evidence of things UNSEEN ... YET! We need hope in the things we know God can do, even if we haven’t seen it.
John Wimber... 
John Wimber was an amazing evangelist with a gift of healing - someone who God had clearly called to this kind on ministry. he saw hundreds of people in the 1980's and 1990's healed and he taught many others to heal by faith in Jesus. But John Wimber prayed for more than 1,000 sick people before he saw his first healing. How could anyone possibly stick with something through such constant failure? He refused to go by what he was experiencing, but stood on the testimony of scripture. 
I had to take my youngest 2 to the docs for an immunisation this week. and a funny thing happened whilst i was there. and you know that if something odd happens and you recognise it is odd or out of the ordinary, it’s always good to take note, because you just never know when God is talking to you...
So whilst we were sat in the waiting room a boy of around 15/16, came in with a nasty gash to his head, obviously needing assistance, and he came in with a few concerned friends who said that someone had just walloped him over the head. So what would you think would be their response? Maybe to rush him through to be patched up, or to find a nurse straight away or to sit him down and find out if he was alright maybe?
Well the receptionists very first response was ‘well I think the best thing would be for you to got to A&E’ Now I won’t tell you where we were but the nearest hospital I would guess is 20 miles away, this boy is obviously too young to drive and anyway is in no fit state and the buses, are frankly rubbish.
On top of that, this young boy had come to the place that had both the skills and the resources to help him, and yet their response was we can’t treat this,  I don’t know why, maybe it’s not in our guidelines, he has to go to the hospital, we can’t treat this... but they had in that building all that they needed. Doctors and nurses, many of them, trained with the skills to stitch a headwound. Dressings, bandages, needles, all under that roof and yet their first response was ‘we cant’. Was that fear maybe? fear of reprisals? fear of mucking up their schedule - people already waiting... would people be cross at having to wait?
And yet it seems rather ridiculous doesn’t it. That a medical centre would send someone to a different place, miles away which it would have been very hard to get to, when they could treat him right there.
Sound familiar....? I think that’s what we are like as a church sometimes. WE HAVE ALL WE NEED in JESUS!! He is the great healer and lives within us... we have the resources, we have the skills. But so often we don’t use them because we are fearful. Fearful of getting it wrong, what if it doesn’t work, what if they don’t get healed? what if they think I’m ‘not normal’ a bit odd (Wills talk a few weeks ago - well, we’re not normal!) maybe we don’t believe we have what we need to pray for healing? maybe the docs thought they didn’t have what they needed?
What if we said to people, oh no we can’t pray for you, you have to go to a special prayer meeting, or to a church miles away that has a good record of seeing people healed? like they would have sent that boy to the hospital... We can feel that we need to go to these far away places to get healed, but Jesus is right here in this building...
be saved and have faith.. thats it.
Just to finish the story, thankfully, after a very long wait, in which I thought he might faint in the middle of the waiting room! they called him in and stitched him up. Thankfully someone in the building knew their skills and knew what resources they had and they weren’t afraid to use them. So I’m telling you, you have what you need! We all do, Jesus has given it to us. 
 let’s not be fearful, let us be confident in who we are, in Jesus.

Just to reiterate. When Jesus sent out his disciples, the bible says this:
Matthew 10: 5-
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
....later he says:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

So Jesus tells his disciples to go and pray for the sick, well in fact what he actually says is ‘heal the sick’, not go and pray and see what happens, but ‘heal them’. and for those of you that think that was for then and not now, he later says in the Great commission (Matthew 28)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

And it is still happening 2000 years later. We are many generations down but each of us has been made a disciple, most of us have been baptized (and if not, next week...) we follow and ‘obey’ the teaching of Jesus and his word.

So I read through most of the gospels this week, I wanted to reaquaint myself with how Jesus healed people, how he prayed, what happened.
Jesus healed all who came to him. All. Even the soldier who had come to arrest him, he healed his ear. 
The bible talks a lot about compassion ‘Jesus was filled with compassion’, or ‘he had compassion upon them’. In his compassion he heals them.
do we have compassion for all who come to us needing help? needing healing? and it might not be physical healing, it might be mental or spiritual, needing healing from pain, past hurt, needing to forgive.
And Jesus doesn’t pray long prayers or in one particular way, most of the time he just says something very simple like: 
‘be clean’, get up, ‘Go, your faith has healed you’ ‘woman, you are set free from your  infirmity’
Now I’m not dissing any one way of praying, there is some amazing teaching out there and there have been some amazing men and women of God who have had hugely successful ministries in healing. Often these people will have a specific way of praying and they teach that. And clearly we do need to be careful not to be inappropriate or too directive, praying for healing is often with vulnerable people and we have to respect that, but what I would say is that really it is nothing to do with us, What we do when we pray for the sick is we are bringing people into the presence of Jesus by his Holy Spirit. That’s all we are doing. 
So when we see Jesus healing people in the bible, we see people coming to him. People will all kinds of ailments from blindness, deafness, withered limbs, paralysis, possession by evil spirits and so on... The people come knowing that he is something special. That he can help them - they have a hunger for what he can bring, what he can give them. and I think that’s the key - are we hungry enough? Do we want God to move more in our church? Are we on our knees seeking him daily? are we crying out to him?
When Jesus was travelling around people travelled huge distances to see him and not in cars like we have today, on foot or possibly by donkey. How did they know where he was - could have taken days/weeks to find him!
The bible says that people followed him everywhere. That huge crowds formed. word must have spread like wildfire
in Mark 1:45 - says that Jesus couldn’t go to towns but stayed in open places, (because so many people would crowd to him) but even then people followed.
He tried to move to another place by crossing a lake and yet they still followed him. 
I Love that hunger - people were so desperate to see him, to hear his teaching, to touch him etc - they filled houses, they formed huge crowds, they followed him, some left jobs, families to be his disciples.
There was the woman with the issue of blood who touched his cloak - perhaps that was all she could do, I imagine it must have been like being at a big concert, down the mosh pit at the front, and she knew all she had to do was just reach out and touch him, what would it have taken for her to do that? a woman, probably alone, she was probably weak from her condition, she would have been unclean,  and anyone who touched her would have become unclean, she took a huge risk and yet she fought her way through a huge crowd of people. What hunger she had.
and there was the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof! they didn’t give up when they couldn’t get into the house so they actually dug a hole in the roof and lowered him through.
Do we have that kind of hunger, to see more of God at work here? and in our lives?

So 2 weeks ago I went to a small town in Wales called Cwmbran, it’s near Newport just off the M4. In a church not much bigger than ours the week before a man who had been paralysed for 10 years got up out of his wheelchair, lifted it above his head and ran around the room. That is what God can do... Come on!!
So anyway I went down to find out what God was doing and it was pretty awesome! I had a great time there. There are 2 things I want to say about it. 1 is that those people were/are hungry. 2: THEY ARE IN NEED. 3: THEY GET INTO JESUS PRESENCE...
 The Pastor there is a reformed drug addict who spent time in prison, he was saved in prison, went to work for an organisation called Victory Outreach UK, eventually trained and became a Pastor. He pastored a huge church in Birmingham and he felt God call him back to Llanelli in s Wales where he came from. Now this is a deprived area, pretty much the whole of the welsh valleys is, closure of mines, theres high umemployment and with that the associated problems, alcoholism,  crime, drug addiction and so on. People here are in need. 
So the church in Cwmbran was set up 3 years ago and since then 4 others planted in the valleys area. God is clearly on the move there. But much if that is about peoples hunger. For many of them they are in dire need, and the church is a place where they can be set free and they know that. many in their congregation have been set free form addictions, just as their Pastor was, many come from deprived families and yet they know they need saving! They know there is another way. And they come to this church with that hunger within them and there they meet Jesus.
So for the last month, since that chap, Paul, got out of his wheelchair, people have been flocking there to receive a touch from God. Hundreds have been saved, hundreds healed. Such hunger
and the other thing to highlight is that when the outpouring started, the Pastor preached from the book of Esther. and his message was about how Esther dealt with her enemy. If you don’t know the story, read it! Short book, great story. But the bottom line is that Esther overcomes her enemy (and an enemy to the all jews), not by ranting and raving, shouting getting cross, but by bringing her enemy into the presence of the King. That was the message that he preached, you can hear it online - great message. And so Pastor Richard encourage people to  bring whatever the enemy was throwing at them, into the presence of THE KING.
Paul, in his hunger, brought his paralysis into the presence of the King, into the presence of Jesus and and he was healed.
We need to be hungry and we need to get in Jesus presence.
Now that outpouring has been going on for 4 weeks and each night people are getting healed and saved. People are travelling from all over to experience what God is doing and in fact Pastor Richard speaking this week - Thurs night at TKC. Because they are hungry and they want to be in God’s presence.
We don’t have to go to Wales, or Bethel Church or anywhere else to meet Jesus, he’s right here. Are we hungry enough?
Look the bottom line is we believe in God. A God who created heaven and earth, who sent his own son to die so we could have a relationship with him. How can we possibly expect to always understand what is going on? We cannot! and we just have to live with that. But do we live with the balance of it, or do we become defined by unbelief..
Do we believe in Gods word or not? simple as that...
Eph 3:20: MSG: 20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

edit: 14/05/13: you can hear the audio here.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Retreat, Part 2 'God is in the detail'

So... one thing I loved about my retreat was the way God spoke to me, it was all so simple and yet so meaningful. I mentioned yesterday about feeling a sense of how much God loves me which was amazing. So simple, but something I needed to hear. Another thing I felt him saying was that he is in the detail.... (and not as the old saying goes 'the devil is in the detail').

So when planning my retreat I wasn't really sure what to do. It wasn't a led retreat and although I really wanted to just be guided by God, I wanted to be prepared to, so I prayed and I felt I should focus on 3 chapters in Isaiah.

On the first day I knew I couldn't get into my room until mid afternoon so I left early and stopped off at the beach on the way. As I sat down, with the beach almost to myself, and just sat and took it all in I felt an amazing peace come over me. The day was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, gentle breeze waves just lapping at the shore, and so so quiet. I took out my bible and began to look at the passage and I read this:

'Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?'

...and it was one of those moments when scripture just jumps out at you and you feel like you've seen something new, something amazing.  Just sat on the beach and reading those words I had a profound sense of Gods vastness, but also that he is in the detail. I looked around me and amongst the thousands of pebbles I saw tiny and perfect shells, bits of stone that glimmered with gold, a piece of shell that shone like pearl, a tiny, tiny stone that had been eaten away by the sea to reveal an intricate and beautiful lace effect.

I really felt that God was saying to me, we just rush through life so fast, we miss all this detail. God is so huge and vast that he is everywhere that we can see wonderful things in creation like vast oceans and beaches that go on for miles with thousands, or millions of stones and yet, to just stop and look, there is so much to see. So much more that we miss every day because we rush around in our busy lives.... and as I thought about all these things I looked up and on the horizon was a cross. I guess it must have been some kind of ship but it just looked like a cross stood there in the distance.

I could have zoomed off to my retreat but just in stopping for a while (in fact it was several hours as I couldn't tear myself away!) I met with God so much more. So throughout the few days I noted down some of the 'details' that I noticed, that I would otherwise have missed:

Blue Tits fighting in a tree, almost having a kind of dog fight, they swooped around after each other squawking as they went!

Nails coming through the roof of an outdoor seating area, just reminding me of Christ's sacrifice. Harsh, hard, sharp and driven into the wood.

A Green woodpecker jumping across the lawn

The smell of old books in the library

An old fire place in my room

The varied birdsong as I sat out in the garden

The amazing shapes in the wooden posts of groynes on the beach

A mother duck and her ducklings crossing a busy road and all the cars stopping to let them!

The warmth of the sun on my face as I lay on the beach

And this was just a few - imagine how much we miss each day... God in in the detail...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Going on Retreat... Part 1

Start of my retreat....
© 2013
So, last week I went on retreat, for the first time. I can't believe I've got to nearly 40 and never been on retreat before. In fact I'm not sure I've ever been away by myself before... (other than travelling at 19 which was more about partying and booze than anything else, but that's a whole 'nother lifetime).
The last 2 years I have been to the Hillsong Colour conference in London with some friends and at the end of last years, when they were booking up for the following year I felt God say to me that next year I would be doing something different. So I spent some time praying and subsequently ignoring the beautiful invites and gifts that Hillsong sent out to tempt me into going.... and I felt that I should be going on retreat, which kind of made sense after the crazy journey of 'discernment' and going into ministry.

So by the time I got around to booking it and finding a date, the time I booked just happened to be at around the same time I would have gone to Colour. Funny that...

Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre
I went to a place called Crowhurst Christian Healing Centre, near Bexhill, basically because I'd read a book about it ages ago and it wasn't far from where I live (I didn't want to waste time travelling although it was so tempting to go back to Cwmbran!). Crowhurst is an old Rectory and the centre was set up in the 1920s I believe by the then Rector. Their focus is very much in prayer for healing, and they hold a healing service twice a week, but they also host retreats, weekend events and so on.

It's funny how you just know God is in a place isn't it? I think the moment I walked into the building I felt tears welling up! and there were a couple of places in the building, particularly the library, where I could just really sense God's presence so strongly. The thing I loved most though was the utterly amazing sense of peace and calm. And of course there is something to be said for being in the middle of nowhere, with only a handful of people, no TV and just a bible for company... but aside from that it just had amazing peace. 

The place itself is a lovely old rectory, with modern additions including a rather 'ugly on the outside' chapel, but wonderful inside. The gardens are pretty with a lovely pond, and fields
Fave spot to pray...
to walk in, including a prayer walk. My favourite spot was a rickety old bench by the pond. Inside there's a large lounge area, dining room, art room, and a well stocked library. I had planned to basically shut myself in my room with my bible but actually there were so many other better places to be that I spread my time around the place.

There were services each morning and evening and I didn't go to all of them, but those I did I really valued. Compline is not really my thing, just not a massive liturgy fan, but when there I just found it good to be with others, saying the same thing, to the same God, at the same time, even though we were all there for different reasons. Even the slightly awkward singing of songs unaccompanied and rarely in tune didn't bother me!

The Healing Service itself was quite an experience, I shuffled in late hoping I could sit quietly at the back but it was so packed I had to squeeze in between others. Which bearing in mind there were only about 8 of us staying, was a surprise, but some of the stewards said that it had been getting busier and busier and that soon they would outgrow the chapel if it carried on, which clearly shows that God is doing something there. The Pastor led with such enthusiasm and love for Jesus that everyone was swept into it, it was really powerful. I felt completely overwhelmed by Gods love, in fact I think I spent most of the service sobbing to myself, just got a hold of it when we went into communion and that was it, off again.... I had an amazing sense of Gods love for me, and also real compassion for the other people there, some of whom were clearly very ill or had health problems. As communion approached it was almost too much to consider how much He loves me and what he did for me on the cross...

One thing I found was that I was so tired the whole time I was there. At first I thought maybe I was coming down with something, but I realised or maybe God revealed, it's just that I needed to rest. To rest my body, my mind and my soul. And rest I did. In all ways. I mean I hardly spoke to anyone, I spent a lot of time just resting in God, not even speaking or praying to him, just 'being', I wasn't thinking of theological ways to discuss what I was reading or planning next weeks activities, I could just sit and be with my Heavenly Father. And I did sleep, there is something rather decadent about having a kip in the afternoon, but I made the most of the fact that I could and did! And it was just so lovely.

There were various things I felt God talking to me about which I will write about in another post, otherwise this will go on and on... but if you were thinking of going on retreat, I would really encourage you to do it! and I would thoroughly recommend Crowhurst too.