Ruach Card Training
Sacred Space, Kingston will be holding training in how to use Ruach cards at Mind, Body, Spirit events on Friday 2nd November (date and venue TBC). The course will be from 10am-4pm and cost £60 per person which includes a set of cards and comprehensive manual. To find out more visit the website www.ruachcards.com. To book your place on the course, please e-mail Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The greatest Christmas gift of all
In my last post I told you a bit about the relationship I have with a special friend who I’ve had the privilege of discipling over a number of years. I have been blessed by her in so many ways but most especially by the others she has brought to me to experience the love, acceptance and healing she has found in Christ. One of them has had a really difficult year and just six weeks ago admitted she was an alcoholic.
It was a brave first step acknowledging just how broken and in need she was. The first week of her journey to recovery she did amazingly well and did not touch a drink. But on the Saturday night I got a text saying she was drunk and in trouble. I tried to get back to her but got no reply. All I could do was pray. I felt so helpless and afraid for her and totally inadequate as to know what to do. The next morning I cried out to God. I told Him I did not know how to love her and support her through this. I also thanked Him for protecting me. These relationships have given me a new appreciation of how much I have been spared by always knowing God and having Him as a presence for good and restraint in my life. I felt God answer me by saying that I did not have to feel the burden of care and responsibility. In this instance it was my friend’s role. The disciple was to become the discipler. She had been through this and worse. God would use and redeem her experience of abuse and addiction to help our friend and I was to support and encourage her in that. It was a great relief but also another important lesson in discipleship. Not only do we need to not get in the way of God but we also have to let go so that others can fulfil the role that He has called and equipped them to do. So this is what we have done – my friend gives the love and help needed and I support her as she does this.
It has worked well and our friend is now five weeks clean and sober. She has also grown hugely in her faith. A couple of weeks ago having experienced increased levels of occult activity in her house we held a small gathering to pray and bless her home. Since then she has felt much happier and more secure in the house and says that the whole atmosphere is changed. Last week when we met for bible study her neighbour was there and asked if we would pray for him. Also her ex-boyfriend came round depressed one evening so we prayed and shared amazingly accurate words of knowledge that really blessed and encouraged him! The thing that she most wanted for Christmas was her own bible. On Christmas Eve I went round with her gifts. She took one look at the present I held out to her and gasped, “Is this what I think it is?” She excitedly ripped the paper from the copy of The Message I had given her. As I left she said, “I am just so grateful that you have brought God into my life.” That for me was the best Christmas gift to receive as well as to give! I feel that this Christmas I can join with the words of Isaiah, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” How gracious God is to let us in on the joy of His salvation!
This week I am returning to my discipleship series. Last Sunday I had a great time tagging along on a ReSource weekend. There are 3 or 4 of these weekends a year organised by CMS and they give Christians the opportunity to visit a specific location and hear stories of mission and experience fresh expressions of church to inspire and inform their practice. The next one I am hosting in Kingston in February and there are still places available. To find out more, visit http://pioneer.cms-uk.org/resource. This particular weekend the focus was on using art and creativity for culturally sensitive mission. We visited moot in the City of London (http://www.moot.uk.net) and heard about the remarkable journey that has led to them becoming a new monastic community reaching out to the spiritually impoverished, both rich and poor, from a historic church opposite Mansion House tube. It was a joy and a privilege to learn the lessons of their experience as well as share in their devotions at evening prayer.
In my remembrance day blog I talked about how I have been discipling a friend who came to Christ through Alpha but then fell through the net of church as the long and painful process of healing and transformation began. In the early days God told me to ‘show her how to live’ and she stayed with us on and off as I sought to be faithful to that instruction. However, after a year or two we came to a stage when this was clearly not enough anymore and she needed something more. It was on another ReSource weekend this time in Sheffield that I felt God gave me the next step. I was inspired by a woman called Amy who was working on an estate in the city. She devised a strategy of mission that began with developing a relationship with someone who wanted to explore faith in Christ. This person would then invite a couple of interested friends and with Amy’s help they would start what they called ‘simple church’. This would involve them meeting regularly and studying the Bible. Starting with one of the gospels, they would take a short passage and ask 4 questions – what does this say about God, what does it say about me, how should I respond and who do I tell?
I knew this model was what God wanted me to use and adapt for my friend. The only problem was she was someone who lived a very chaotic life. The thought of her doing anything every week seemed impossible! Also we had the kind of relationship when I would not see her for months and then when there was a crisis we would meet every day as we worked issues through. The ReSource weekend was at the end of November and for the next few months I only saw her for brief visits. Then in February she called me and asked if she could come and stay. It was terrible timing and I said no. It transpired she had broken her foot and with a 3 month old baby in a split level studio flat there was no way she could manage at home. So I picked her up with boyfriend and baby and got them settled on the ground floor of our house. Despite the mess and disruption it was great spending some proper time with her again. After a couple of days she said she had been meaning to ask me whether we could meet to study the Bible together every week. She thought that was what God wanted her to do! I was blown away and told her about my experience in Sheffield. We agreed to begin. The next week she had a friend who also wanted to study the Bible and a little while later another of her friends joined us.
What has been amazing is we have managed to meet most weeks and I have seen all of them grow in faith in God as well as in the confidence to share what they understand of the Bible passage and to pray for one another. Last week these wonderful women carried me. They reached out to God on my behalf when I no longer had the hope or strength to do it for myself. My friend had a scripture to encourage me. God told her which book and the numbers of the chapter and verse. 1 Corinthians 12, v.12, “Your body has many parts – limbs, organs, cells…The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part…If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.” This is what we were experiencing in microcosm. So what can I teach you about discipleship? That it is God who does the discipling. The best we can do is not get in the way and let Him. Simples!
This is not what I intended to write this week but it is what has been on my heart and mind. Last weekend I was invited to contribute something at our church Christmas Fair. As relations between myself and the church have been somewhat strained I took this as a positive step of affirmation of my ministry and went along. There was the usual range of stalls and games and the church were raising money for a range of activities they have planned for the New Year. I decided to give what I offered for free so as people were having refreshments I gave them a hand massage and listened as they talked.
I met some lovely people – a couple of stressed out mums trying to keep their small children entertained and three wonderful older ladies who were on a Christmas Fair ‘crawl’. This was their third! As I talked with each of them during their massage it became abundantly clear they had a real and living faith in Christ. One lady was worried about her grandson losing his direction in life and it was a real privilege for me to be able to pray with her. Another of the ladies really surprised me as it was obvious she had a deep and genuine love for God and yet she said she found church really difficult! I wrongly assumed that it was just the younger generation who struggled with Sunday morning worship but she told me how she had to sit near the back and often was unable to stay until the end of the service. The reason for this it transpired was because once in church she would start to cry and was then unable to stop! This immediately struck a chord with me as this is my experience and was the primary reason I gave up on our Sunday morning meetings. She put her reaction down to a mysterious work of the Holy Spirit and seemed to accept it as her strange gift.
The next conversation nearly broke my heart. I met a very troubled lady who found it difficult to leave her flat because of serious OCD and an overwhelming fear of being attacked. She had a baby die at Christmas and had never been able to come to terms with her loss. She started to break down and reveal the huge well of pain she carried. It was too much for her so I changed the subject and she was able to compose herself but I promised to pray for her all week, which I’ve done.
I have not been able to get these encounters out of my head. None of the church members faithfully serving by helping staff a stall would have any idea about the lives of the people they were selling bric-a-brac to or encouraging to have a go at hook a duck! I am not saying there is anything wrong with either of these activities but maybe even when you take the church out of the building you cannot take the building out of the church! The walls are still very firmly making relationships with those outside near impossible. This is one of the reasons church makes me cry. I see the desperate need of those who do not have the hope of healing and transformation in Christ. It is almost as if the louder and more enthusiastically we sing the more successfully we drown out the despair that is at our door. How did we get from church as a place of sanctuary for the broken to a bunker for the chosen few?
So I have begun to rediscover the lost practice of lament. There is a fantastic Grove Booklet on the subject by Paul Bradbury called ‘Sowing in Tears – How to lament in a church of praise’ (W193). He says, “Lament makes faith more difficult, more complex and less straightforward, but it makes it more close to the truth of who we are and who God is.” But what is it? “This is lament, the crying out of ‘How long, Lord?’ We may know the outcome, we may know all that God has done and is doing, but not to cry out, not to lament in the agony of the wait for fulfilment is the equivalent of expecting a mother in labour to stop screaming out in pain and rejoice in the knowledge that her baby will soon be born (p.5).” I never really understood the season of advent. I just thought it was the countdown to Christmas. But maybe I have stumbled upon what it is really all about. In order to fully enter into the joy of the dawn of our salvation at the birth of Christ, we must appreciate and experience the magnitude of what we long for Him to rescue us from and the urgency with which we want this promise of salvation to be fulfilled. We join with the cry of God’s people through the ages, ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’. Do not make us wait any longer!