Thursday, 13 September 2012

Living as a champion

I have a choice.  I've known about its existence for a long time.  And I've been avoiding it a lot recently.  But it's that moments when you realise the truth that sitting on the fence is really, really painful.  It's not just because, according to the jokes, of the splinters I supposedly acquire there.  It's because of the view afforded to me from the additional height.  I can see what lies ahead.  And right now I feel so annoyed with myself.  Because I've been spending so much time looking at the distance, presuming that I could never be good enough, never be strong enough, never determined enough, to reach the finish line that's been set out for me.  Instead I should have been looking at the grass in the field right in front of me, the only thing that I really need to concern myself with right now.  Not the finish line.  I'll reach it - but only if I start by walking into the field right ahead.  My choice is whether I let things continue as they are, or whether I choose my destiny.  To be a champion. That's what I'm called to be.  Chosen to be.  Willing to be.

It's incredible - to be honoured with the title of champion before I've even run the race.   That's my title.  I am a champion.  Because of Him.  He did it all, then gave the medal and crown to me.  So it's really dishonouring, knowing the finery with which He has clothed me, to think how I have been stooping and begging like a pauper.

Time to act.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

There may be fifty shades of grey....

... but some things are black and white.

I'm surprised by how quiet things have been from Christians when it has come to the book that has apparently sold out Harry Potter.  I've not read Fifty Shades of Grey, nor do I intend to.  If there was ever still a question over pornography being a male-dominated issue, that has been answered.  This book has simply highlighted that, whilst men generally prefer visual stimulation, for women it is visceral.  We want to be wooed, we want fantasy, ideals; and so our imagination is our greatest tool to help us on that journey.  Magazines have been playing up to men's needs for imagery for years and, whilst Mills & Boon and the like have been trying to tap into the female market, somehow this book has gained a heightened degree of notoriety and acceptability that they perhaps did not.  So why now?  I suspect that it is the product of a multitude of changes; I watch TV or music videos, and I see images that would have been considered pornographic ten or twenty years ago.  Now they are part of the 'norm', and lyrics by Rihanna and others are sung across playgrounds by girls to young to have a clue what they really mean.  Everyday clothing sold in everyday stores is designed to be increasingly provocative, show more cleavage without crossing the boundary into something more.  Women's magazines have become a farce, with the same publication using one page to berate certain celebrities for putting on a few pounds/being too skinny, and another to scream about how we should all learnt to accept our bodies.

I could go on, but I won't.  I'm already in danger of taking on the mantle of Mary Whitehouse, and I certainly don't want to give the impression that I believe myself to be whiter than white when it comes to the issues of popular culture and its impact on female sexuality, whether through music, magazines, clothing or other influences.  Nor do I want to vilify one particular group of people for being the downfall of us all.  It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario of which came first, the businesses who promote sexualisation in so many forms, or the people who demonstrated an interest for it?  However it started, it's now a vicious circle, that apparently wants to spiral downwards into itself.  Brilliant.  That should help Western society no end.

Where are the Christians in all this?  I have been really surprised by the lack of discussion by Christians about what is a significant marker point in our society's acceptance of pornography into every day life.  I suspect the answer is that we have become more de-sensitised to popular culture than we have realised.  Of course, the question really is, why does it matter?  The simple answer is this - the more time people spend in fantasy, the more difficult it is for them to engage in reality and gain satisfaction there.  It affects people's abilities to have whole and honouring relationships with others.  And all of that is without even considering what it does to a person's relationship with God.  In other words - it doesn't matter who you are or what you believe in, devoting time to pornography will have a less-than-positive impact on your life.  So this is why Christians should care.  This is why they should be talking about this subject.  This is why Christian women should be paying attention - because pornography cannot be put aside as a men-only subject now.  But we will only be able to take this issue on if we are clear in both who were are in Christ - new creations, powerful beings who can choose to have the mind of Christ - and what He wants for us - freedom.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back to doors...

After two weeks of sharing a fairly small room with two other girls, the space is eerily quiet and empty tonight now that they've both gone home.  It's not a great feeling, and it reminds me of how much I thrive on social contact, and how good this time away has been for me.

I came here hoping that I would get some concrete answers from God on what I saw as key questions for my life.  I guess they weren't as key as some other things He wanted to talk to me about, as I'm coming back with the same questions unanswered, but with plenty more other things to consider as well.  The only thing I do feel confident about is the need to pursue prophetic art - understanding it, using it, blessing others with it.  It's a place for me to begin from.

The thing I'm looking forward to most is seeing friends and family again - and hugs.  Lots of hugs.  Yup, hugs it is :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Running out of space and running back home!

Brain ache...... I have definitely reached the point of overflow when it comes to new information to process and the capacity to do it.  Every morning we have extended worship time and then a teaching session (total 2.5 hours), the afternoon has three sessions (total 3 hours) and then the evening has another two sessions - all together 7.5 hours of 'stuff' for my brain to wade through.  Five days a week.  For two weeks.  Enough now please!

I am pretty much ready to come home now.  This has been - and continues to be - a great experience, for so many reasons.  I have met such fabulous people, learnt incredible truths that I am still trying to digest, and been challenged to deal with some of the gnarly parts of my life that I really wish didn't exist.  But now my heart is beginning to yearn for home.  I want to be in Glasgow, in my gorgeous flat, with my amazing housemate and my stooopid cat, and at Hope Church on a Sunday morning - Bethel church is great, but I know where I feel most settled and it's with my church family.

Of course I'm going to feel differently when my host family are driving me to the airport on Monday and I have to say goodbye.  That's not going to be fun at all.  They are so, so precious to me, and have made me feel that I am precious to them.  They have cemented in my mind the sort of home I want to have - laughter, noise, acceptance, spontaneity, more laughter, people, crazy chats over the dinner table.  They have cultivated this in their home, and their kids' friends know that this is a safe place to be - it's evident from how they behave here, how they interact with everyone.

One full day of classes left and then Friday morning as usual - we finish early afternoon after a prayer tunnel with the leadership team at Bethel.... good times!  Then a last weekend with the family before my journey home begins on Monday.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Born to do more - and it's good!

I'm really enjoying the mini-revolution I'm going on during my time here.  Two things have really stood out as areas I want to explore further when I get back to Glasgow.

The easier one to talk about is art.  Whilst I would have previously discounted myself from being an 'artist', I do enjoy doing some forms of art and design.  I chose to do a couple of classes on prophetic art whilst I was here, and have since changed my options so I can do more.  I am loving how God can speak so clearly through it, and am definitely going to spend time with some prophetic artists I know when I get back, because I really want to learn more.  I have picked up a couple of books by Teresa Dedmon as well, that should help me get started.  Expect to see me with paper and pencils on some Sundays in future, because I want to practice listening to God and trying to express it in new ways.  I've seen the profound effect it has had on me and on others when they have done it - there is something in this prohetic art stuff, and I want more!  In a class by Trisha Wheeler today, she said that 'art ministers God's truth sensitively', that 'art is a tool to connect you to God and to the world', and that we can 'create to release the presence of God'.  Probably most of us have been moved at one time or another by a piece of artwork - it can be so much more powerful when you understand God's intention behind it.  So art, here I come!

The only one that feels a little less comfortable to talk about is dance!  I may not (currently) have the physique for it, but oh my, staying still in worship is NOT an option!  In fact, there are moments that it feels dis-honouring to God not to give Him absolutely everything that I have, include all my energy and determination, when I worship.  Don't hear what I'm not saying - I am still very clear on how much I need and want to have times of quiet.  But then there's the rest of the time.... when movement feels like an absolute essential, because I don't have enough air or strength in my lungs to do all the praising that's needed.  Admittedly, I'm a bit of am arm-waver and a swayer in my 'dancing' right now, and maybe it won't ever progress beyond that.  But I feel so much more free in worship.  I don't care what others think, I do care that I am giving Him the best of me.

I feel like I need to write about three blogs today - Christa Gifford (nee Black) did an awesome session on living from fullness (how can we ever be empty if the God of the Universe lives in us?), Ray Hughes shared more wisdom and passion on the atmosphere of worship and nearness to God that David cultivated, and Jenn Johnson shared all sorts of wisdom (that girl's got a fire for Jesus that I want to see in my own life, and more).  Oh, and then there was the impromptu meeting with a girl in the cafe at the church, the great chat with Lydie from France, the chill-out in the prayer chapel, the kindness, love and wisdom poured out over me by my host family..... I'll stop there.  That's only one day.  There's a whole host of these already gone, and another week to go before I return.  I'm running out of pages in my notebook.  This is a good thing :)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Who am I

Today's been quite a mixed day.  Apparently this is the first time they have squashed the School agenda into such a small period of time - last year it was over the better part of 6 weeks, this year it's all mashed into two.  The advantage is that people like me, who only get so much holiday per year, can get to come.  The disadvantage is that tiredness can spring on you at any moment.  Like on a day when you were really looking forward to the afternoon classes, and you end up falling asleep at lunchtime and having to go back home with your host family because you're not going to be taking much from the day if you don't.

So this afternoon I missed a session by Jenn Johnson on prophetic song, one by Sean Feucht on the psalmist annointing which ended in a session of spontaneous praise, and a great teaching session by Kathy Vallotton on being beautiful.  I am pretty much at the point of saying 'que sera sera', but I'm still a bit miffed.  It's not like I've been trying to stay up super-late, or cramming loads of things into the free time we have (admittedly not much), and yet this still happens.  When I came home, my family prayed for me which was so lovely, and I did get some good rest, yet it's still sticking in my throat.

It's at moments like these that my fears resurface, like that nothing is going to change from my time here.  Whilst I was waiting for friends after class tonight, I wrote a brief list of the things I really wanted answers on from God during my time here.  So many things I have been reading and hearing about these past couple of days have called me to stop focusing on what I don't have,  but to give thanks for who God is and to fill my mind with His praise first and foremost.... and then all these things will be added unto me.  It is such a mindshift for me - which is a little embarrassing to admit when you know you've been called to be a worshipper and you realise that you are wearing that like a label rather than living it as an identity.

And so this all leads me back to understanding why I am here.  It's about consecrating myself to the One who loves me, who has always loved, me, and always will.  It's not about answers; that was my intention, not His.  Accepted, He may give me answers whilst I'm here, but if that's all I'm here for then it was an expensive trip I could have saved myself from doing.  But when I truly understand who I was created to be, then what I was created to do will flow naturally from that (thank you to Jerry Aaronson tonight for that revelation).

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Truth and experience

A few posts ago I wrote about truth, and our absolute need for it.  Today I was in a class led by Judy Franklin (if you don't know who this woman is, and you're interested in heavenly encounters, find her books on amazon and read them!), and she started with the following quote, which has been attributed to the philosopher Deitrich Bonhoffer:

"Truth divorced from experience must always dwell in the realm of doubt".

That is such a challenge for me.  But it's come at a good time.  Having come from a christian family, I have been learning biblical truth for so many years.  And one of my skills is being able to regurgitate information that I've learnt.  It can make me appear like I am full of wisdom, and it is such a help in my day job as a skills trainer, but in reality sometimes all I am is just an entertaining parrot repeating the words of others.  I've watched a number of people who appear over recent months to have had this jet-propulsion into the things of God and, whilst I know that they have been taking time to study the Word and learn more about God, the key has been the time building what Bethel refers to as their 'personal history'.  Whilst they are keen for students to gain as much as they can from the experienced people on staff at the school, they are emphatic in their belief that nothing can replace this - no impartation, no experience in a meeting or a worship session (although, let me tell you, today's worship was POWERFUL!).  What really counts is what you build with God when you are away from others.

In Judy's class we did an exercise about picturing ourselves spending time with Jesus.  Me and Jesus were hanging out in our garden, as often happens to me in situations like this.  We were on the swing seat for a while, and then I ran off, to walk on stepping stones across the river.  I thought Jesus would join me in the fun, but what He said stopped me, and I chose to come back to the seat - 'you are always so busy and active to sit and spend time with me'.  When I went back to the seat, we didn't talk - it wasn't about that.  We just hung out, in each others presence.  It was peaceful - I liked it.  I got the impression that this seat would always be there, as our relationship grew; like a couple that fell in love, and then grew old together, we would be like them, always coming back to our favourite place, to swing on the seat, surrounded by grass and wild flowers, staring at the river nearby.

I am hoping (a prayerful hope!) that the time I have here I can use to start new habits in building that personal history, and particularly in making so many of the exciting things I am seeing, hearing and learning about from others into reality - truth - in my own life.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Head mashing.....

Yeah, I know, not exactly the most erudite of titles.  But it's about all I'm capable of right now.  It's 10pm, and we have just got back from our first day of classes.  We've had teaching from Kris Vallottan and Bill Johnson, both of whom offered nugget after nugget of theological truths to feed on.  I'm glad I've taken so many notes - it's going to take a long time to process them all.

This afternoon I was convinced I was going to be writing a post about community, based on the experiences I have already had here.  And then tonight happened.  One hour in a room with Teresa Deadmon, in a session called 'Living your dream'.  In that time, she got us to imagine with God, dream big dreams about what we saw ourselves doing with God, and then do a piece of art that reflected that.  I cried through most of it.  I was so challenged on how I have previously said, 'yes Lord, do what you will with me, take me wherever you will', and yet He highlighted to me a massive obstacle that I have put up in the way of that.  It took me by surprise, as I hadn't realised its presence before, and it is going to be tough to let go of.  But in seeing this, I was then able to dream more freely than perhaps I have done before.  Where God took me was to an image, a set of circumstances in the future, that brought together a number of things that have been said over me and have been of interest to me varied amounts of time - probably some of them for over ten years, and things I probably haven't shared before.  Teresa has encouraged us to keep our artwork with us, and reflect on it over the next two weeks in particular, to have God continue speaking to us.  I am trusting that, if what I have seen is accurate, He is going to use others to affirm it, even if I have no idea how it will take shape.  

When I came here, I was so nervous that nothing would change, nothing would transform, that I would come back unaffected by these two weeks.  I don't think that is possible.  I know I have a role to play in that, and I am so grateful that He has already given me a degree of focus for my prayers as I move forward through this time.  

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The need for a new sound

There must be more than this.

Please, there has to be more than this.

More than endless 'Christian' songs that repeat the same words to the same chord sequences.  

It's not the chord sequences that really bother me.  Just the misconception that so many musicians are living under, that their inspiration and expression should come solely through words that have already been written.  The Psalms, Isaiah and others are all great books, and they rightly point us towards God.  They demonstrate an outpouring of a heart that is truly filled with awe and glory of our great God.  And they can be literal instruments to leading us into His presence.  But they were never, ever intended to be a boundary that we cannot cross.  Whilst it is absolute truth that we are a city on a hill, a light on a lampstand, that God is my refuge and fortress, and other familiar phrases like these, when we use them so many times they become cliches and utterly lose the incredible power they held when they were originally used.  He does indeed hold us in the palm of His hand, our names are written in His book - but are we so familiar with these words, that we stop to think what that actually means?  In the hands of the One who created each intricate part of the Earth, who flung - FLUNG - stars into space, who SPOKE life into being. We are in His hands.  Surely if we really understood that, instead of being able to quote from memory countless songs that tell us so, we would move with far greater authority and love than we currently do, because we would be so secure in who we are, in whose Name we act, and the power we carry.  

Listening to Christian radio yesterday, I became so frustrated with some of what I was hearing.  Maybe I need to crank up my tolerance levels, and remember that people may be simply writing and singing out of the stage they have reached in their relationship with God - I know that my own relationship and understanding has grown so much in even just the past year, yet in many ways is still so young and immature.  But I also believe that as musicians we have a responsibility to be careful about what our songs teach others.  Just because we are not in the pulpit doesn't mean that we are not transmitters of theology.  Our words, our melodies, will point people somewhere.  But will they point to the true God, or instead to a distorted image that we have painted and believe to be true?  One song I listened to expressed how the writer would try his best to do what He believed what God wanted of him, but was learning how to lean on God to fill the gap.  NO!  Father God is not, and has never been, a gap-filler.  What is he, some sort of sealant, tiling grout holding us together?  When we picture it this way, it seems ridiculous to imagine.  But that's the idea we promote when we suggest that we are supposed to do as much as we can and then we have to look to God to do the rest.  Okay, yes, I can see where they are getting the idea, but it's not truth.  We are called to operate out of the fullness of God - Jesus looked to the Father first before acting, and kept on looking to Him for guidance and strength as He kept going.  His eyes were fixed on Daddy from the start, He never started something for which He had not been equipped.  He didn't start a miracle and then say, 'well Father, up to you now, I've done all I can'.  Working from the fullness, not the top-up.  

I'm aware that this is a rambling mess of thoughts, and that I am maybe not being fair.  I do hope that I am not suggesting through all this that the words of others can't help us in expressing our emotions to Daddy.  Equally, there is grace for all of us as we grow in our understanding of who He is and who that makes us.  But I have always believed that just because a person can sing, play an instrument, or construct words into pretty forms that fit to music, does not mean that they must record and publicise our work.  As musicians our first responsibility is to love and worship our God - our giftings are to help us worship Him, and it is possible that some of the fruit from this may be music that others should hear.  It's not a foregone conclusion, although in today's society that screams at us that anyone with music talent should be recording and promoting themselves, it's an easy trap to fall into.  Musicians must take their responsibility as seriously as any church leader - because if people are humming our melodies, singing our words, we need to be sure that we are strengthening their foundations and not weakening them.

David, the shepherd and King, has much to teach us on this subject.  He pursued God, and his words were the outpouring of a constantly deepening relationship with his Creator.  Our words should be the same - not just a repetition of what others have discovered, but instead the personal revelation He has brought to us through the times of intimacy we have spent together.  It's a responsibility we have to acknowledge and accept if we are going to share our songs with others.  Oh, and there's responsibility for us who sing the words of others, too.  I'm listening to words 'He is jealous for me, love like a hurricane, I am a tree.... and all of a sudden, I'm unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory'..... do I really know His love to be like a hurricane, that is so powerful, so incredible, that I am bowled over by it?  Do I search for His glory, and find that when I do, He is greater than anything I can be troubled by?  And if I don't, then why I am singing that I do?

This is a personal revelation I am working through, I'm not entirely sure what to say or do next.  I think the answer has to be personal - it has to impact my own times of worship and intimacy with the One I love.  Then what I do will pour out from there, and I know that I am playing my part in being responsible for what I sing out.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Doors, rockets and new clothes...

There are a good few images that come to mind as I prepare for my trip to Redding.  My time away has been likened to a rocket - like I'm going to be spiritually propelled forward.  Someone else saw clothes, new robes to wear.  Me, I've picked an image that rather more reflects my rather changeable emotions - doors.  I've done some of the prophetic activations before with some of the gang from Hope church, and normally the door I picture is large, ajar and welcoming and typically takes me into a garden with Jesus.  It's a pretty great place to hang out, I always like it there.

Today's door looks a little different.  It's like those you see going into restaurant kitchens, which can swing both ways.  For some reason I have this nervousness that, although I can push the door and go through, it might swing back and hit me.  I'm not sure there's any deep theological reason for this... I think I'm just nervous!  The only good thing about being able to visualise this is that it's made me stop and think about where Jesus is in the midst of this picture.  Thankfully it doesn't take much to realise he's waiting in the kitchen, ready to hold the door open for me.  Of course, if I follow this picture through, there are questions I can ask of Jesus - why am I picturing a restaurant, a kitchen?  The answer - I'm to be Jesus' sous-chef!  Wow, now there's a word to get hold of.  I just looked up a dictionary definition - it's the second in command under the chef... yeah, it doesn't take much to work out who is the chef in this kitchen ;)  The impression I get is of an apprenticeship - that if I'm willing to put in the work and the discipline, Jesus is going to teach me a huge amount Himself.  Although I am going to be attending teaching sessions from a number of great and glorious people, I think the biggest times of learning are going to be in the quietness, when it's just me and Him.  I'd really like that - to be like Samuel, to say 'speak Lord, for your servant is listening'.

I've been struggling to know what to expect of my time away, so this picture really helps.  I genuinely don't need to worry about it, He really does have it sorted.  I loved what Paul Manwaring kept saying when he spoke at Champion Life Church recently - 'He wastes nothing, He gets you ready'.  I don't know what He's getting me ready for.  It's been clear that He's already been doing something, He's not waited till now to get started.  And I am so ready.  Well, truthfully, I'm not.  Because I haven't got a clue about what's through the door.  I know Who is through there.  Just as well.  Don't think I could muster the courage to walk through if I didn't.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A warning or an example...

'Your life, my life, the life of each one of us is going to serve as either a warning or an example. A warning of the consequences of neglect, self-pity, lack of direction and ambition... or an example of talent put to use, of discipline self-imposed, and of objectives clearly perceived and intensely pursued.'  Jim Rohn

Discipline has become a naughty word in my life.  I've realised that it's become a form of punishment in my mind - if I'm naughty, then I have to have some discipline until I learn to be a good girl again.  Wow.  Treating God's goodness like the naughty step.  Not a great image, when I think of it like that.  

In the not-so-distant past I've wanted to get all angry and upset whenever my mum has said to me 'you just need will power', 'you need discipline'.  Okay, I know that when it comes to accepting parental advice, it doesn't always come naturally to many of us.  But I was thinking about this when I came across the start of Proverbs, which talks about wearing the wisdom of your parents like a garland around your neck.  It made me think of a Hawaian lai (if that's how you spell it).  This beautiful garland of flowers is given as a gift to a visitor, it's a sign of love, of welcome, of acceptance.  I am really challenged by this.  How different would my mindset be if I saw advice, including references to discipline, as a present, carefully crafted by the giver and meant to show how loved I am by them.  

I'm not quite sure yet how I'm going to do this, so I think this needs some God-involvement (I can almost hear the heavenly sigh of relief as they see that I'm not going to 'go it alone' for once, and then get frustrated when I fail).  I need a new perspective on both receiving the advice of others and then making the personal choice of discipline.  This is a subject I need time to think about more - for once, writing isn't helping me reach all of the necessary conclusions.  Or maybe that's because this isn't a problem I can fix myself, and therefore about which I can predict the outcomes.  But I hate the idea that my life would be a warning - what an awful prospect.  Yet I can see how easily, when time is not taken and objectives not defined and pursued, this could happen without any intention.  

Bit of a rambling blog today - I suspect this means it's a subject I will revisit in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

What a waste of life....

I'm not talking about those tragedies where someone dies too young, too soon, or doing something reckless that shouldn't have turned out like this.  They do, indeed, seem like such an unnecessary waste of what could have been great, long and glorious lives.  But it's not what I mean.

I'm talking about the waste that's happened today.  In my life.  Possibly in yours too.  The time I've spent on things that didn't really matter, the thoughts I've let meander through my mind that have distracted me from what I should have been doing, the opportunities I didn't make space for because I reckoned I was too busy.  What an utter waste.

I happen to have been reading a little about the subject of 'truth' today, having come across it in someone's autobiography.  The author had studied philosophy, and his reading of Plato, Socrates and the like had led him to conclude that there is no thing as absolute truth.  Apply it to my own life, and then my 'evidence' of how I have wasted time become nothing more than one-sided opinions - my 'waste' is another man's 'gain', or some other platitude-nonsense-speak.  As a Christian, however, I can't accept that truth is only an abstract concept, to be wielded at one's peril.  Jesus said that He is the Truth.  He also said that He is the Way, and the Life.  The three are interlinked - like a three-cord rope, useless if one of the cords is missing.  And if I line up my life, the way I have chosen to spend my time, even just today's actions, with Jesus' Truth, there are some gaping holes.  And it feels like it.  I don't feel satisfied with the day, even though so much of it was good and fulfilling.  I'm left looking at the holes and, quite predictably, feeling rather empty.

That leaves two options - stay here, staring at the holes, or turn back to the One who sat one day by a well, telling a woman the Truth about her rather colourful life to date, and using that conversation to set her free.  Because Jesus never uses who He is to condemn, even though that is what this bear of little brain feels should be the logical response.  He uses it to set me free.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The truth shall make you fret....

No, you didn't read it wrongly - it's a quote from a Terry Pratchett book, when a team setting up a new printing press for daily newspaper are trying to find some appropriate platitude to frame the front page.  It changes regularly as they apparently struggle with their spelling, this is probably my favourite :)

John 8 hols the 'truth shall set you free' verse (v32) that most people will know.  'You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free'.  Whilst I have nothing but admiration for the great people who have taken time to translate the Bible into our language, there are occasions when we rely on their choice of words so much that we don't take the time to read a little deeper.  When we look at this verse in the context of the entire chapter, it comes clear that this 'truth' is not a simple noun, it is a proper noun - in other words, it should be written 'Truth'.  Jesus is talking about Himself:

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know me, and I will set you free."

Three steps - live in a way that demonstrates you are obeying what I have taught you, and you will get to know me.  In all this, I will set you free.  And Jesus wonderfully, graciously, doesn't get specific on the freedom on offer.  You will simply be free.  Whatever it is that is binding you up, pulling you down, holding you back, there is freedom.  Jesus said so.

How often have we heard this phrase, said this phrase, and turned it into a simple platitude?  The problem with platitudes, is that they sound lovely but mean very little.  It's all a bit 'raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens' - fanciful and dreamy, but without any real significance.  And as a result, we miss the whole point.  Freedom is not something beyond our grasp, it's not a nice-to-have but probably unlikely this side of heaven.  It is part of God's original plan - the garden of Eden, a place of freedom if we accepted that what God said to us was the truth.  We didn't, and ended up with more ties and binds around ourselves than we could escape from. But this verse is a promise - we trust him, follow him, and he gives us freedom.  No tricks.  No deals.  We simply have to believe that he means what he says.

Today's declaration is simple:

I will hold onto Your teachings.  I will love You above all others.  And therefore I am expecting You to reveal more of Yourself to me today, so that I will walk in ever-increasing freedom.

Friday, 25 May 2012

All change.... or all stay the same?

I'm about to head into what may be eight of the craziest weeks of my life to date.  And with nearly 36 years of madness already behind me, that's saying a lot.

My first challenge is completing some studies which have been ongoing for the past five or more years.  Once finished, I get to put some extra letters after my name... whoop-dee-doo.  Oh, and my CV looks better.  Wow.  Yeah, you guessed it, I'm definitely not motivated to get this done - in fact, the only thing really motivating me right now is what it will cost me financially if I run over the current deadline.  Which is in three weeks.  4,000 words to go.  Three weeks.  Research still to be finished.  Oh hec, it's going to be busy.  Not much I can do than suck it up, because there's little point in the coulda-woulda-shoulda done it long ago talk...

Saying that, it will represent an end of an era.  It's been hanging around like a bad smell for so long now, and is an inheritance from a job I technically no longer do.  It begs the question, 'what next?'  And that's where the following few weeks after that come into play.  I'm off to music school - worship school, to be exact.  Three weeks in sunny California, staying with an awesome host family, and getting to worship and learn with people who are all in for God.  Most of the time I am utterly giddy with excitement about the whole thing.  And then there are times like now.  You see, I've put so much stock in this being a key time for me.  And I've had people speak over me that this is going to be a significant time for me, that it is going to propel me forwards in God and into my destiny.  Right now, that feels like a tall order.  And I'm scared.  Scared that I'll be disappointed.  Scared that when I get back, I'll have to pretend that I've been through this amazing mountain-top experience that we all dreamed I would have, and that life will never be the same again. But what if that's not the case?  One of my dearest friends said last night that it would be impossible for me to spend that much time with God and not come back changed.  I hope so.  But I think that hope is as much earthly hope as it is heavenly hope - probably more so right now.  Those who know me well will know I have had a history of depression and anxiety - and so I'm fearful that the intense emotions and pressure of finishing my studies and going to Bethel are going to trigger a bad time, not good.  And for once, I don't want to feel like I have a battle on my hands.  To have a continuous period of being well, and not feeling like it has to be a struggle.  

That's why, over the next few blogs, those who want to can join me on a journey of truth.  Today I read a quote from Jonathan Edwards (the theologian, not the athlete... I think...) that 'truth is the agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God'.  This is going to be my preparation for the time ahead.  Learning and declaring truth.  And for me, talking about it, typing it, sharing it - whether anyone else reads it or not - helps me to process and then to learn.  I do believe that one of the things that God is 'making good' out of my circumstances is my ability to care for others in a similar predicament - it's an answer to prayer from years ago, during one of my worst periods of illness, when I begged God to 'not let this be in vain, let it be used for good one day'.  

Today is day one on the walk of truth.  It's going to be my own version of Pilgrim's (very slow) Progress.  This declaration, funnily enough, comes from Bethel church, where I'm headed in just a few weeks time:

"I am powerful, and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare:
God is in a good mood.
He loves me all the time.
Nothing can separate me from His love.
Jesus' blood paid for everything.
I will tell nations of what He has done.
I am important.
How He made me is amazing.
I was designed for worship.
My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy.
Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone.
And...with God
Nothing is impossible!"

Read it out loud.  Go on.  I dare you.  And do it again tomorrow morning.  And tomorrow night, along with the next nugget of truth we share together.  Which means you'll then have more to say out loud.  Tell me how you get on.  Tell me what challenges you.  Let us encourage one another to keep going.  Because THAT is what the church is for.  Don't let anyone fool you into believing the statement that you don't have to go to church to be a Christian - it's true, church attendance has nothing to do with salvation, but the statement hides from a significant truth, that we NEED one another.  We need encouragement, challenging, those who rub the corners off our edges, those who hug us and tell us to hold on a little longer, because a new day is coming.  

Rant over.  Truth is here.  Truth is here to stay.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Make it so

I can't believe that I am about to write a blog linking prophesy to Star Trek.  I guess people have written worse analogies, but I'm not sure how many will forgive me for this one.  Think I shall dive headlong into it and see what happens....

I admit that I'm a bit of a Trekkie - definitely more so than Star Wars (seriously Mr Lucas, the first three you did were enough, you didn't need to do another three, and we won't even BEGIN to discuss some of the scripting in Anikin's first romantic scene - stick to the sci-fi mate).  I'm not exactly a dedicated fan, but I have always loved the Next Generation series more than any other.  I suspect that had something to do with having a bit of a crush not only on 'Number One', but also on Jean-Luc Picard, he of the 'Engage' and 'Make it so' fame.    It's the 'make it so' phrase that I'm thinking about at the moment, and how good it is at expressing the degree of faith we should have when making prophetic declarations.

If you don't know what I mean by a prophetic declaration, all I mean is saying things out loud with a certainty that they are going to happen.  It's like speaking things that currently aren't yet there into life.  The Bible is littered with examples of this - Matthew 16:18 is a prime one.  "Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not overcome it."  This was Jesus speaking to Simon Peter, the man who would later swear that he would be the last man standing next to Jesus if it came to it, and then rapidly found three people who he could swear blind at that he hadn't the first clue who Jesus was. The man who was about to hear the shocking words 'get behind me satan', because his best intentions were actually being used as a tool to try and tempt Jesus from His chosen course.   This was Jesus speaking to a man who would utterly let down his Master, and who would do nothing to redeem himself yet in terms of words and deeds, except to stick around once Jesus returned.  A man who, at that time and in the weeks to come, could not have been seen to deserve such faith and promise from God.  Yet Jesus knew what Simon Peter, and any observers, did not - Simon Peter's future.  Jesus was speaking out a prophetic declaration, calling this man's future into being.  Demonstrating faith in what He was certain was to come, even though there was no evidence as yet.

Here's the Star Trek link.  When Picard said 'make it so', it was often at the end of a discussion with his team, when they had considered all the options, and come to their conclusions. He would then walk out of the room, expecting his team to do exactly as he had asked - it never occurred to him that the would do anything else.  That's what a true prophetic declaration should be like - 'make it so'.  When Jesus spoke over Simon Peter's life and future, He was effectively saying 'make it so' - 'I have faith that this is what will happen next'.  We have all authority under Heaven and on Earth to make such declarations - as long as they are in line with the Word and the Spirit, of course.  But they need to be delivered with the right mindset and intention - with the faith that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever hope or dream of, and with the sole purpose that glory is given to God and not us.

And why have prophetic declarations been on my mind?  Because Glasgow has been on my mind.  Recently I heard a fab speaker, Dawna De Silva, talking about a spirit that has been sitting over Scotland, of an acceptance by the people that life simply was tough, was always going to be tough, and you just had to accept it and get on with it.  I've found myself wanting to make a prophetic declaration over Glasgow, which I am starting on from today.

Glasgow, you are a city of joy!  You are a city of freedom, of light and abundance.  You are a city of creativity, of restoration and hope.  You are a beacon city, illuminating Scotland with your brightness, and calling the creativity of this nation into being.  You are a rock that cannot be moved.  Yours is a well that will never run dry; the well has been stoppered up by a lack of faith and a reliance on human strength.  WAKE UP GLASGOW!!  The well is being opened, the stopper has been removed and the water has been rising in the passing years - the water is now ready to burst out, like a geyser.  It is going to water all of the city, and seeds of faith that have lain dormant for a long time are going to erupt into an overwhelming harvest.  You will reap a harvest that you did not plant, but that was planted for you by your ancestors.  They prayed over the seed, and trusted it to the Gardener, who is faithful, and never lets the garden go to complete ruin.  Glasgow - you have a new name, the City of Joy.