About Me

Friday, 31 January 2014

Compelled by Love // The Movie

If you've not heard of Heidi Baker, do google her. Her and her husband Rolland are missionaries and run Iris Ministries, based largely in Mozambique, a nation that God said he would give to Heidi in a prophetic word from a friend. They have been out there now since 1995 and during that time have planted some 10,000 churches, seen thousands of miracles, blind eyes opened, deaf ears hearing and countless more. Their story is quite simply amazing. If you want to know more there is an account here.

This January has seen the release of the film 'Compelled by Love' about the work of Heidi and Rolland in Mozambique, and many churches have been partnering with the charity to show the movie, which we did a few weeks ago. I knew of Heidi's work so I was excited to see the movie but I wasn't sure what to expect. Here's a trailer to give you a bit of an idea….

The movie is unashamedly about Jesus, and his amazing love, and that is what we see through Heidi, that amazing love just gushing from her. You can't help but be inspired by her. When you see her with children hanging off her, or hear of the things she has to live with, or hear of the hardships they have lived through, it's hard not to be inspired. She even had a bounty put on her head at one point of just $20. $20?! I wouldn't leave the house, I'd lock myself in a room and be in fear of my life. Not Heidi, no, she just carried on! And the thing about her is all she wants to do is talk about how amazing Jesus is. A friend of ours went out there recently and he said everyone who works out there is like that, they don't want to talk about the miracles they have seen, just how amazing Jesus is.

The line Heidi repeats is 'just stop for the one'. Of course we can't all be missionaries or set up orphanages or thousands of churches, and we are not all called to do that, but we can help the one. That's the inspiration. I may not be able to go to the other side of the world, but there are those in need on my doorstep, there are those who need help right here. We can all help the one.

Love looks like something, she says. Well, in this movie, I love how the love of Jesus just shines out of Heidi. She shows what a life fully committed to Jesus can look like. 

If you've not seen it, do! I guarantee it will change your mindset

(and I have the movie on my mac now so I'm happy to host a screening for anyone who wants!)

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sally Phillips comes to town... (well, to our church actually…)

It was not the first time Sally Phillips (star of Miranda, Bridget Jones and lots more) has been to our church, as a friend of the Vicar and his wife she and her family have visited before, but this time it was for 'An Evening with Sally Phillips' to launch our next Alpha course. Not one for the limelight personally, she quipped 'had I known I was coming to an evening with myself I wouldn't have come!' She admits that whilst she loves acting and comedy she does not like to be the centre of attention herself. Not that you would have known that last night, she was so warm and engaging, open, honest, and of course very funny. Definitely not a 'sleb'. In fact she revealed she had even turned down such celebrity gems as 'Strictly Come Dancing' (which the audience agreed unanimously she should do!) and I'm a Celebrity Get me out of Here'…

I loved pretty much everything she said last night but one thing that really stood out was when she talked about the pressure on female actors. She talked of an experience in which she had been sent questions for an interview and out of 70 questions, over 50 of them were about diet, looks, fitness regime and so on. It was a delight to hear her say that she refused to bow to those kind of questions (which tend to be the norm for women in the industry), even after several chasing phone calls from one particular newspaper (it's the one that we all love to hate).  She even spoke to the younger female members of the audience to tell them to be strong against that attitude, that society might teach us that women are just a body but it's not true, you are much more than that. I loved her for that line alone!

She talked about her career of course and gave away a few bits from behind the scenes, such as lunches with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth on the set of Bridget Jones (jealous? much…) and on leaving the trailer after lunch saying 'thanks for having me in your trailer..' cue much laughter… Did you know that she actually auditioned for the part of Bridget? when at the time her life was actually much like that of Bridget herself, and she lived in Notting Hill. Although she did say she when people told her she was like Bridget Jones she thought it was a bit of an insult! In one of her more recent roles - in Miranda - she joked that Miranda farts on set a lot and apparently the conversations behind the scenes of Miranda often revolve around the latest Strictly gossip. She also revealed that audiences for Miranda can be so hysterical that they actually have to remove the real laughter from the film and add canned laughter instead!

Of course she was actually there to help us launch Alpha and so she also talked about her faith too. Sally was brought up without any Christian input at home, but came to faith after a scary spiritual experience when she began getting nightmares which she said were terrifying. It was on a morning at work when she went in and revealed to a fellow actor - a Christian - that she had been having these nightmares, he prayed and they stopped immediately. After this she did an Alpha course and came to faith. She talked really openly about her faith and how she prays at work - so if you are ever in the audience of Miranda you can be sure she has prayed for you..! But she also talked about some hard stuff too. Her oldest son was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome after he was born and she admitted how hard this was in relation to her faith, as she said, I thought, I keep my side of it, I love you God, I worship you, I pray, I tell people about you, and you keep me and my family safe... Although as she said, she did realise this was not how it worked and this attitude completely ignores what Jesus did for us. She said she found it so tough that she even decided to be an atheist again for a while. Although the trouble with that was that she realised God was still there and so she couldn't ignore him even if she wanted to. Clearly a difficult thing to talk about but she did so with such love, humility and honesty, and I think we were all touched by it. And by the way, one thing she did say was, don't ever ask someone who has a child with Downs Syndrome if they knew when they were pregnant. She said whatever reason you ask, the parent will hear it as 'would you have aborted had you known?'.

Not just an actor, Sally writes a lot too and has just seen a 'short' (or short film) 'rain' published in Sweden (we had a sneak preview), and she is in the process of writing a new series. In demand as an actor, she said since she seriously took up comedy she has never had to work doing anything else, but she clearly also loves being a mum and so spends more time writing these days to give her more freedom to be with her family. 

I expected Sally to be funny, what I didn't expect was such humility and integrity. This woman is a role model to so many young women, and what a great example she is too...

Friday, 24 January 2014

Prayer Spaces in Schools

So if you've not yet heard of it, Prayer Spaces in Schools is an initiative that grew out of the 24/7 prayer movement. It involves setting up a space in a school with various 'prayer stations' encouraging children to think about different aspects of prayer and God. It is brilliant on so many levels. As a Christian, I love that it encourages children to think about God - what he might look like, what he might be like, what they think about him. But I also love that for those who are not Christians or have never been to church or heard about Jesus, they get the opportunity to explore these ideas. So often we don't allow ourselves, or our children, the space to think about some of these big questions of life. The  Prayer Spaces are always non judgemental, so the kids thoughts are never wrong, the idea is just to get them thinking and talking. For some it might mean a planting of a seed, or spark an interest but for many it is just time to think. Obviously those running the space are Christians and so care needs to be taken to explain anything we suggest as 'our own beliefs' rather than what is or isn't right or wrong.

Putting our worries before God - chilling
out space and bubble tube!
Some of those post it worries or prayers
I also love that while for many kids school is busy and a constant round of lessons and learning, a prayer space can be a moment of calm in their busy days. It gives them time to stop and think. It gives them the freedom to explore ideas, or if they want, to just sit and be.

I have helped on several of these now and it's amazing how each one is so different. The sense of God's presence differs from school to school, different questions are asked and children respond in different ways (as do the adults!)  In fact that is one of the most interesting things -  the differing responses to the space. There have been kids who don't want to leave it, or want to come back another day. There have been requests for a permanent space like it. Some kids come in with one attitude and leave with another, some respond emotionally while others are quiet and pensive. It feels like God just meets with the kids wherever they are at, on so many different levels. And out of the spaces I have helped in I have never seen a child taking the micky out of another for their response, or picking them up on something they have said, it's like they recognise there is something special about the space or something holy and they have respect for each other accordingly.

Blossom Prayer Tree - before
Blossom Prayer Tree - After
Another interesting thing is that rarely is there a complaint or concern. In fact often it's the opposite, someone might be concerned but once they see the space and see what it's all about they seem to be calmed. It's amazing how the kids go back to their classrooms and talk about how great their time in the space has been and the teachers can't help but be interested. In one school I helped out at, even the hardiest of atheists admitted that the kids had been beneficially impacted by their time in the space!

cardboard 'shanty town' shelter,
thinking about those in poverty
The Prayer Spaces in Schools website has some great resources and ideas so it's really easy to get started. On top of that the ideas are linked to the national curriculum so for RE teachers it is literally a God send! If you have never tried it, do give it a go, or suggest it for your child's school. It's actually pretty easy to set up, you just need a few willing volunteers and a space to use!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Christmas Talk // Carol service 22nd Dec

I usually post my talks online the day after, so apologies for the delay with this one, but post Christmas has been a tad busy! So here's the notes fro my talk at our carol service (as usual they are my notes so ignore the highlighting etc)

Intro: carol service at kids school

So, I went to a carol service at one of my children’s schools this week and it was really lovely, in a wonderful chapel, 9 lessons and carols, cute kids doing the readings…. just beautiful. And at the end a lady in front of me turned to her friend and said ‘that’s the nicest carol service I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a few over the last 10 years’. I thought, gosh that’s so lovely, what a nice thing to say. Then she turned back to the friend and said ‘of course its because there was no sermon!’

So… I’m very sorry that there is a talk tonight! But hey this is a church so you’ve got to give us the ‘God slot’…! And I promise not to be too long!

But that lady did get me thinking. We want the traditional

Why is it that as a society largely we want the traditional side of Christmas but not the God bit?  We love the sparkle and bling don’t we, we love a Christmas jumper, some mulled wine, bit of a sing along with the Buble, but when it comes to the actual reason why we’re celebrating Christmas, so often that is forgotten, unwanted or swept aside.

Lets think about it – how much time, effort and money do we spend planning for Christmas? I don’t know about you, but for us the last few weeks for us have been pretty crazy! So we decided this year to make things as easy as possible. We decided to do all our Christmas shopping online this year and let’s just say that our recycle bin might as well be sponsored by Amazon right now, we did an e-card rather than sending cards this year, I haven’t slaved for hours making wonderful homemade Christmas presents with love, and the ultimate sin, I’ve even bought ready made bread sauce (horrors, my Nan would turn in her grave) and I still have some presents to buy!! But it has still been busy. And the reality is, I’ve just felt tired and a bit stressed and I have to admit I have not particularly felt the love of Jesus  through all this. And I’m sure I’m not the only one, right? Anyone else recognizing this scenario??

Need a break?
So if like me you’re needing a break, or a bit fed up with commercialism, whoever you are, whatever you believe, I encourage you, let’s just for a few minutes open our minds to the possibility that Christmas is more than that. There is more! More than the money spent, more than over indulgence, more than the Christmas dinner, more than the Next sale on Boxing Day, more than the gifts – its about the most precious gift of all, Jesus.

Poll/ relevance
I saw on ITV this week a poll which referred to what people believed about Christmas. One of the questions was ‘is Jesus relevant today?’. 51% of people said no.

And after all, why should he be?  He was just a baby born over 2000 years ago in a stable, right? How can he be relevant in the technological age of the 21st century. So many of us see just the baby born in a manger, the lovely nativity story, but that’s all it is to us, a story, and we don’t see its relevance in our lives today.  That is the challenge to us all…

In the Luke passage that we heard the Angel says ‘I bring good news of great joy that will be for all the people’. Good news for all

The good news is not just that a baby was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, the good news is that that baby grew up to be a man who showed the most amazing depth of love and compassion to those around him, whether you believe that he is the son of god or not, he made a difference. He was a radical. He didn’t put up with the status quo. He challenged the world order of the day. He made a difference in individuals lives, to the woman with the issue of blood who was healed on touching his cloak. To the blind man whose sight was restored. To the father whose daughter had died and was raised to life. He made a difference to those individual lives and I am sure hundreds more that didn’t get written down. The bible says in instances where he preaches to large groups of people that people brought their sick to him and he healed every one.  Every one! He made a difference to those individuals lives but also to groups of people to communities.  He preached a message of love, that’s what he came to do, and he is still doing all of that today.

I see him…
I see him impacting individuals lives daily, I see him encouraging people to challenge the world order and stand against corruption, help those loving in poverty and hardships, I see him impacting large groups of people and communities.

And all this from one baby who was born in a stable 2000 years ago.  

The nativity is not just a nice heart warming story that makes us feel good about celebrating this time of year. The nativity is the beginning of something. And it can be the beginning of something for each and every one of us. 

End of the year…
It’s interesting that we celebrate Christmas at the very end of the year. Historically we know it was unlikely Jesus was actually born on Dec 25th.  But that is the date we have celebrated on for hundreds of years.
But because it comes at the end of the year we tend to see it in that way don’t we? How many people have a week off work before the new year? How many businesses are closed for 2 weeks? Someone drove into my car just before Christmas a few years ago and the insurance company just told me from the outset they wouldn’t even look at it until the new year! December becomes  a write off doesn’t it? It’s about Christmas prep, nativity plays, end of term concerts, work dos, preparation - buying presents, ordering the turkey, getting over family difficulties. And I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me I can’t wait for Christmas so I can have a rest (me included!) although if you work for the church that means rest comes after the Christmas day service…! 3 days and counting…  but Christmas is not the end of something, the birth of Jesus is not a one off event or the end of a story, it’s the beginning!
New birth, new life. 
Jesus was the fulfilment of the Jewish scriptures but his birth is also the beginning of an amazing transformation in this world. And that can be an amazing transformation in your lives too…

Our story…
I want to tell you a story, it’s set just before Christmas a few years ago. It’s a story about a couple I know, who were far from God. Their relationship was failing. They had little time for each other. They had little hope. Then God sent an unlikely messenger to them in the form of a builder. He proclaimed the good news to them just as the angel did to the shepherds.
Like the shepherds they were afraid but they were excited by this good news and as they ran towards Jesus just as the shepherds did, choosing to follow him God healed their relationship, literally overnight. A Christmas miracle… For them it was a new beginning.

Since then
their lives have been transformed in amazing ways. Now, they wouldn’t say that their lives are perfect, or that there are no worries, or that there is no fear of the future, Jesus is not Harry Potter. He does not come and wave a magic wand and make everything perfect.

but they would say they are happier than ever before, that their life has a depth of meaning that it never had before, that God has led them to places they never dreamed they would be and that they are filled with a joy and a peace they have not experienced. They know that ‘there is more’.

That is the transforming power of Jesus and I know that, because that story is about me and my husband.

And that’s the thing. There is so much more to Christmas than the presents, than the turkey, the family, even that the nativity story. All the wrapping, the presents, the food, it’s all temporary. What Jesus gives us something eternal.


So today I want to say to you, keep your hearts and minds open. We don’t have to shut the door to the possibility that Jesus IS relevant for todays 21st century lives.  Be open to the possibility that ‘there is more’. What Jesus offers us , offers you, is a new beginning…

There is more. This is just the beginning. Amen…