I believe

I need to share something here. Last week I saw a miracle take place. My child, who has suffered from serious health issues for 7 1/2 years experienced total healing. It’s a complicated story and not mine to share, but what we know is that her body has been transformed by the renewing of her mind. Just like the bible promises in Romans 12 verse 2.

I have now seen two of my children experience healing that has been inexplicable in human terms. I feel as if God is proving beyond my doubts that He/ She is real, has power and can do more than I can ever ask or imagine. God is irrefutable. My cynicism or temptation to believe, but only in a logical, feet-on-the-ground kind of way, has been taken away from me. I don’t have that choice anymore.

At the same time as this is happening, I am being moved into a new place in my journey towards forgiveness. Or maybe it’s a journey of forgiveness. I’ve been trying to forgive for a long time now, and I think  I have forgiven, but there’s more to come. In the past two weeks people who don’t know about where I’m at in that particular journey have told me things which have changed my perspective. I’ve been placed in other people’s shoes by the power of shared stories and I’ve had to re-examine my own stories. The stories I know about myself and the stories I believe about other people. I’m sure God is in the stories.

Maybe it’s because of the proof that God keeps giving me in other parts of my life that He is active and real that I am learning to place more trust in Him in other parts. I always thought that healing was harder to make happen then forgiveness but I think it’s probably the other way around.

and then yesterday someone met my husband and myself at a wedding and asked us if we’d ever thought about planting a church. I don’t know if God is in that story but I’m certainly more willing to hold open the possibility. I’m discovering that God isn’t hemmed in by our constructs and my imagination needs to grow.

 

 

 

I had a dream

Yesterday I had to engage a little with the past. The uncomfortable, painful past. The past when I thought my marriage was over and we wouldn’t make it. It left my heart feeling heavy and my mind agitated. At the end of the day I said to my husband that although I had to do the things which were making me think about the past again I was really praying that the feelings and emotions which I’d once felt about these events wouldn’t attach themselves to me again. Does that make sense ? You know the way you can remember things and you find yourself back in that moment. I don’t want to do that.

My prayer was answered in a very surprising way. I slept ok and then woke suddenly at 4am. I then slept again until about 7am. Sometime in those three hours I dreamed that I was marrying my husband again; or maybe we were renewing our vows. Either way, we were getting ready for a wedding ceremony. Our wedding ceremony. Friends from different times in our lives were there and as I walked down the street I saw friends putting up flowers. In the garden where we were going to have the ceremony we decided there weren’t enough flowers and just before I woke up I was wandering around a very beautiful garden cutting flowers to place on the canopy which seemed to be central to the celebration. Flowers, celebration, laughter. Those were the main elements in my dream.

I told a friend I saw today about this dream. ‘You don’t have to have the gift to interpret that one’, was her response. We laughed. And then she almost cried. It’s amazing to me and to those who know me that the dream I had last night feels much more real than the past events I was remembering. I would gladly marry my husband again. I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. It’s not something I’ve thought about at all , but I’m pretty sure God used that dream to show me how I feel, and to remind me that I am secure enough in Him and in my marriage to deal with the past without it wrecking my present.

More Dirty Glory

I’ve written and re-written this post.  A lot has happened in the past couple of days. More dirty glory. More outcomes from my year of praying dangerously.

I’m being called to be brave. To step forward into things which I really don’t want to have to do. This week the channel 4 news brought to light allegations of very serious physical abuse of boys at christian summer camps nearly 40 years ago. The allegations were investigated in 1982 but there was inaction and very serious consequences for more boys. It’s heartbreaking and appalling.  The issue of the lack of transparency in church leadership hits close to home, and I think there are things that need addressed within a particular denomination and I think I may have some insights which I should be sharing. I don’t really want to have to do it, but I’m no longer feeling afraid in the way I once was. This may be where my oneword ‘pray’ is taking me. 

Tonight at church we sang  ‘Like a rushing wind, Jesus breathe within, Lord have your way, Lord have your way in me. Like a mighty storm, stir within my soul, Lord have your way, Lord have your way in me.’ 

A storm uproots and lays bare. A rushing wind blows over objects and makes it hard to hold on to things.

If I write all that has been happening  there is a chance that I will be writing about events which although true, make me wonder if maybe you will think I’m doing great things. Maybe you’ll think I’m some kind of super cool christian who’s got it together.

And I’m not. Tonight at church I wanted to bundle up in the foetal position as we worshipped. I wanted to become as small as I could. I feel like an animal shedding its skin. It’s uncomfortable but I know that its because I’m growing. But it’s hard and a bit frightening until I remember that all I am doing is trying to get as close to Jesus as I can, and that the journey itself is irrelevant to some extent. The part that matters is the obedience and the losing of self in the following.

That’s why writing about it feels wrong.

So I’m not sure where to go with this. Whether to write or not. I guess I’ll figure it out in the days to come as I try to listen more carefully.

But what I do know is that I can feel the wind blowing. It’s getting hard to hold on to some things. The storm is on its way.

 

 

 

Dirty Glory

Last Sunday evening I was reading ‘Dirty Glory’ by Pete Greig. You may have heard of him: he’s the founder of the 24-7 prayer movement. I bought his book before Christmas somehow not realising it was about prayer and  when I started to read it, around about the same time I began to think my one word for 2017 should be ‘pray’, I sensed that purchasing it hasn’t been as random as I thought.

I was reading about Pete’s move to America and how he began to feel comfortable. His ideas of pioneering were petering out and he was starting to feel ready to settle for a more ordinary life.

I was sitting on my sofa by the fire reading these words at the end of a weekend when the travel ban instituted by Trump was causing inhumane and unnecessary distress to many people. When the world seemed to be growing darker not lighter. When friends no longer wanted to identify themselves as christians because of the confusion of people using that term to describe their actions which seem to have nothing to do with love or the Prince of Peace.

I was heartbroken and unsure. And then I read Dirty Glory and realised that only 29 days into my year of ‘pray’ I was already feeling like I’d be willing to settle for less. Adventures with God are all well and good, but I’m tired and I’d like a quiet life.

NO.

I put down the book and wrote some stuff on social media. I wrote about my identity as a christian and a person and my distress at what I saw happening.

I put it up there and waited. I didn’t expect much response – and I didn’t get much response.

Until the next morning when a neighbour replied to one of my posts. She thanked me for writing it. Turned out she and her (muslim) family had that weekend been racially abused for the first time in her children’s lives. She didn’t want to mention it to anyone but knowing that I was being loudly (in social media terms) condemnatory of the actions of Trump which I took to be racist and inflammatory, she felt able to tell us about it. Her friends responded online and soon she was receiving affirmation and comfort.

Her son is in my son’s class at school. We are very near neighbours in the same street. If I hadn’t posted we wouldn’t have known about the injustices being felt in her life.

‘Pray’ is not simply about something that happens inside my head or between God and me. It’s about the stirring I get to do something; to say something; to be something. It’s about me responding to God in such a way that He can actually use me to be light for someone else.

Tomorrow I’m going to join a larger protest in London to show that I don’t support what is happening, nor the way it’s being enforced. That will be my prayer. As I march I will be throwing myself on God’s mercy and doing what I can to be visibly more like Jesus – to care for the oppressed and the hurting.

I think I might also be on the brink of setting up some sort of local database of racist incidents . I have a sense that that is also part of my prayers’ answer. I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

How a sauna is just like prayer

I love saunas. They are a treat – something I love which I only have access to occasionally. I love their warmth. I hate steam rooms – they make me cough and feel as though I can’t breathe, but saunas make me feel GOOD! Last year we took a walking holiday and every evening I made for the sauna. My tired muscles relaxed and the chronic back pain which I have  would ease just a little and I slept better than ever.

You can imagine my delight recently when I started attending a Hot Yoga class and found that a door in the women’s changing rooms opened into a sauna. Every Sunday morning I anticipate the loveliness of stretching and balancing followed by thirty minutes of quiet warmth as I let my body relax fully in the sauna. It’s worth getting up early for.

The extraordinary thing is that for two years I have been a member of a leisure centre, where I swim and use the gym and go to classes, and IT HAS A SAUNA, BUT I’VE NEVER ONCE USED IT.

I know. It makes no sense, given what I’ve told you already.

This morning I decided to give it a go. It was just as lovely as saunas are. I went before and after my very low impact exercise because my back is playing up a bit and I figured extra heat would help.

And as I sat there, wondering why it has taken me two years to do this, I realised it’s a lot like the way I think about prayer. 

I resisted taking ‘pray’ as my word for this year. I was sure that I don’t do it well enough or often enough and I have no idea really what prayer even is or does. How does it work ? What if I get it wrong?

And yet, I know that when I have spent time in God’s presence – like the 36 hour retreat I took 18 months ago, or Saturday mornings when I sit in bed with my bible and notebook and just slowly let his love soak in, I love it. I feel so good afterwards. But somehow I’ve been thinking of that as just for a treat. For special times. For holidays or slow time. I haven’t thought that actually that stretching out in God’s presence and enjoying the warmth is for every day.

I didn’t use the sauna at the gym until today for a number of reasons. Firstly,  I thought I’d have to put on a swimsuit and I couldn’t be bothered. In fact, when I thought about it the swimsuit rule actually means ‘please make sure your body is appropriately covered’, so I can wear my yoga pants and shirt. No effort required. I’m already ready. Secondly, I felt awkward about it. What if someone I know is there ? What if I can’t open the door to the sauna? What if I don’t like it?  I agree. Entirely unnecessary awkwardness and completely lame worries. If someone I know is there I will say ‘hello’. If I push the door and it doesn’t open I will pull it. I’ve learned about doors. If I don’t like it I will leave, but I love saunas so that is unlikely.  Thirdly I didn’t think I had the time to be there. How could I justify even 20 minutes of sitting still in an overheated room? eh, maybe because it’s good for me? My back hurts less now than it did before I went. In terms of my overall wellbeing sitting in a sauna is a really good use of my time and should be something I do as often.

As I sat in the sauna this morning, recognising my foolishness, I realised that maybe I’ve felt the same way about prayer. I’ve had access to the presence of God for a long time. It’s always available to me. It doesn’t need to be saved as a treat or for special occasions. And when I’m there I relax and feel the warmth. It doesn’t for a second feel like a waste of time. I stretch out the bit of me that are tightened up. I allow the heat to penetrate the deepest knots. This morning as I sat in the sauna I found myself talking to God about sex. Like I say, God’s presence goes right to the deepest parts of me.

So in this year of ‘pray’ I want to try to remember that being in God’s presence is for every day; for the ordinary times. I am already ready to be there,and it will never be a waste of my time.

 

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The year of praying dangerously

My #oneword for this year is ‘pray’.

It is not what I was expecting, but as I’m quickly learning, it’s not a word which is accompanied by quite what you may expect or be ready for.

For those of you who followed my previous blog, you may recall that I spent a year or two writing about my #oneword diary style – The Hope Diaries carried me through 2014 and into 2015. I want to write about this word in the same way.

I don’t have much time at the moment, in fact right at this minute I need to go to bed, but I just wanted to start this diary. I’ve had a few unexpected outcomes of the word already and I want to share just one tonight.

I’m reading Pete Greig’s book ‘Dirty Glory’ and in it he writes about how prayer brings us into the presence of God, and from that how that presence goes with us. As I read my bible on Sunday morning and prayed – the kind of prayer that has me telling God that I want whatever He wants and that I just want more of his presence, I got a response.

‘Pray with Geoff’. What ????? ‘Pray with Geoff’.

Geoff is my father in law. My father in law who we were going to see that day. My atheist father in law with whom I’ve never discussed faith and I would never before have dreamed of praying with him.

I laughed. God cracks me up sometimes. As soon as I say ‘Ok. I’m all yours’ God is right in there with some instructions.

In the car on the way there I told my husband.

He was pretty surprised. He thought it was a bit crazy and he thought his father would say no ( part of the plan was that I would ask him if I could pray with him, rather than just launch in).

We arrived and usually I delay before going to see Geoff He’s been bed bound for over a year. There’s a smell in his room that makes me gag. I struggle to understand what he says. I feel awkward. I don’t know what to say. I’m sad and I don’t know how to deal with that.  If I manage to sit with him for ten minutes I’m doing well.

Sunday I went straight up to his room. I couldn’t get there soon enough. I didn’t notice any smell. I talked. He talked to me. We laughed together. I popped downstairs to collect the present I’d brought him  – it was his birthday. When I returned to his room I noticed the smell briefly and then it seemed to go. I fed him Turkish Delight and joked about keeping contraband sweets under his pillow.

and then I asked. Can I pray with you?

‘Yes’

I held his long fingers in my hand. He tightened them around me; the strength increasing in his grip on my hand as I prayed. I thanked God for this man. For the husband, father, grandfather, father in law and friend he has been. For the good he has done. For the person he is. And I prayed that he would know how much he is loved by God.

‘Thank you’

That’s what he said when I finished.

I stayed with him for almost two hours. We managed together to remember the name of a book that he wants me to read to him. He ate more Turkish Delight, and then I said goodbye.

I am quite sure that it was the presence of God which changed that room into a place where I could stay without difficulty for two hours. His fragrance was with me, because I went into the room intent on sharing the presence of God with my father in law. I don’t understand how that happened, but I’m sure that it did. As we drove home my husband said,’wasn’t the smell terrible today?’. He couldn’t believe that it hadn’t bothered me at all.  I told him that I was going to be weird but I thought that God had come into the room with me and so I didn’t notice the smell. He didn’t disagree.

So – it’s only 17th January and that’s where the word has taken me so far. I’ll keep you updated.

Still taking hold : Day 364!

I can’t quite believe that it’s the 30th December 2016. I’ve spent 364 days ‘taking hold of the life that is truly life’

I’m sorry I haven’t written here very often, despite my intention to write daily for the last 50 days of this year. I’ve been busy taking hold. I’ve been working hard. I’ve been with my family. I’ve been reading books. I’ve rested when I needed to rest. I’ve listened when I needed to listen. I’ve tried not to do too many things at once.

It’s been an interesting year. I began the year with a few really big preoccupations and a decision to try to keep focusing on the things that I knew really mattered. I wanted to let the events of the past become past events in my life. I wanted to keep putting my trust in God on a daily basis. I wanted to live from a place of wholeness rather than a place of brokeness. Yes I know I’ve been broken but I also know that God gifts us with wholeness, and that was what I believed I was promised.

I knew that I had to change some things myself. ‘Take Hold’ was a command. A directive. An action. I couldn’t leave it all to God. I knew what I needed to do and my heavenly Father was there close by always ready to encourage me, and to give me a hug when I didn’t make the best choices, but I had to reach out my hand and close it around the things I really wanted.

In the course of the year I became better at working out what the life that is truly life looks like. I’m still learning, and as well as taking hold of the life that is truly life I still sometimes take hold of the wrong things. I hope that I’m getting better at releasing them again and leaving my hands ready to take the good things that are out there.

I began the year very aware that there were a lot of very good things in my life  but somehow I didn’t believe that they were really mine to take hold of. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t really believe that I was forgiven, redeemed and fully welcome to take my place in God’s Kingdom on earth. I couldn’t believe that I had a strong and happy marriage, children who love me, amazing friends, work that gives me a crazy amount of satisfaction, a restored relationship with my church, good health, and the chance to walk alongside people and share what I know of God’s love with them.

I end the year having claimed each of those things as mine. I’ve taken hold of all those elements of the life that is truly life. I’m excited about where these words have taken me, and even though I may choose a new word for 2017 I won’t be leaving this year’s words behind me.