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.