Life-changing memories

I’ve been involved in events that draw young people together to serve and bless local communities on a short term basis, for many years. I’ve done this both as a leader with young people and as a community worker in an area where teams have carried out this outreach, or mission, as it is usually known.

Over that time, I’ve had good opportunity to reflect on some of the pros and cons of these times. On one hand, there’s a danger that we teach young people that sharing faith and serving communities is not a simple and every day affair, that it’s something that requires special organisation and going to somewhere “other”.  There’s also a danger that local communities receive short term and fleeting input, often from people who have a very different life experience to those living there, and then are left to continue as before when the visitors are gone.

However, I believe that, done well, we can shape such times to be precious and valuable, where young people grow in confidence, develop their understanding of faith and their relationship to God and people, and bless local communities in the process.

This year in Meanwood, one of the areas where I work, a team of 8 young people who were taking part in a residential called Mission United, joined and enhanced the community work that is already going on there. For members of the local churches, they brought challenge and blessing –  young people from another place, standing alongside, being vulnerable in their own inexperience but passionate in their hope for change, full of energy and enthusiasm to serve. For local residents and agency workers, it was so important to see young people in a positive light, willing and able, working hard simply to be a blessing. Those “receivers” were also presented with a challenge – to be gracious with young people who weren’t always graceful in the ways they served and to be humble enough to receive. There was opportunity for growth everywhere and that opportunity was not lost on any of those involved. It was a really great experience.

The beautiful thing about special events is that they create space for us to raise up our eyes and take a look at things from a different perspective. Sure, life doesn’t continue each day as though we’re at an amazing gig, on a once-in a-lifetime holiday, on a spiritual retreat or, indeed, on a mission residential, but memories made at those times can be precious memories indeed, not just as recollections of the past but as things which shape the way we go forward. I know great memories were made when our Mission United team joined us this April, and I know that it made a positive difference to people’s lives. I’m very grateful to have been a part of that.

Whatever you ask lord! 

Recently I have read part of the encounter Mary had with the Angel, as she found out she was to become a mum.  A story and encounter a number of us have read any number of  but something new struck me on this occasion that I hadn’t been struck by before, and that was Mary’s complete obedience to God, and to what was about to happen. 
She would have been very aware of all the social struggles, the questions, the comments, and even the rejection that was about to come her way, but yet, she knew that she had heard from God, she knew that this was what the Lord wanted, and so she went along with it. 
How many of us would do the same, recognising hwo others would rein a situation or context, how many of us, would a pet and recognise what God was saying, and go with it, rather than trying own way out of the situation due to fear, worry, anxiety?
How many times do we put our own concerns, worries, thoughts on to a situation that God wants to maybe due to our attempts to control something things don’t happen in the way that God would want them to happen.
Mary, with little or no regard for herself, went with what God had for her, with what God want and didn’t au rather in the situation.  And things happened as God wanted them too.
Maybe we could learn a lot for learn not to put our own thoughts and controls in place, and maybe, we could all be more obedient to what God is calling for each of us. 
What is it that God is saying to you today through this?
Shadow you need to make to be more obedient?
What is there of yourself that  to remove, to allow more of God in?

Confident

There was prayer for healing at this morning’s prayer meeting. Later, as we looked at Psalm 27, the question was asked, what do you fear. My immediate thought was that I fear arriving at a place where I no longer having the faith to petition God at all.

Nobody panic! The bigger picture is, I believe, a positive one. Impressed by something I heard a while ago from Spacious Places, an addiction treatment centre in Leeds, I’ve been thinking more about the healthiness of living life on life’s terms. Resistance to what is, is a path to frustration, stress, false self, disconnection, poor health, addiction, anger, pain. Serenity, it seems to me, is an utterly beautiful state of being. It is also a state of being that I believe Jesus longed for so much for us, that he modelled it to the point of utter, humiliating surrender.

My thoughts do also come from a place of disappointment. Like you, time and time again I watch people around me and in the news, seemingly robbed of life in all its fullness because of physical and mental health problems and circumstances that were forced upon them. I do believe that healing can be far deeper, far more eternal and far less obvious than we might demand, but that doesn’t take away from the pain that is real to so many. And when those situations continue in the midst of faithful prayer, it’s right to seek to learn something from it. Years ago, I was with a group of Christians, praying for the sun to shine on our event – literally for the rain clouds to blow away. To this day, I don’t believe there was anything wrong with that prayer. But I’ve also never forgotten words shared later by someone who was with us, whose son died in the 2004 Tsunami and who found it difficult to join such prayers when God had not stopped the waters that day. She stood with us, though, and that says a lot.

Why do these thoughts unsettle me? Questioning is right, doubt is normal, and I’m not averse to any of that. Equally, I’ve learnt a lot and my relationship with God feels stronger and based on a greater degree of understanding (which is partly to accept that I do not understand at all!). I think I may be afraid that one day I will lose hope, despite feeling very far from that point right now. However, today I’m confident of this: Prayer changes me and it changes you. And if we’re changed, then we behave differently (better). That seems a pretty good start. I also feel confident that to yield is to overcome. Surrender is essential to the story moving forward, but forward it does go, as it did with the resurrection and the Christ. And I do still remain confident of hope, of His will done on Earth as it is in Heaven and, to end with the Psalm where we began: “I’m confident…that I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

Removing the obstacles 

Easter is always an interesting time for us at RolltheRock as it is where we get our name from!! The rock was rolled away, Jesus came out of the tomb, back to life, revealed himself again to people. 
Jesus arguably may not have come out of the tomb without the rock being removed, the obstacle to his revelation being removed!! 
In writing this, I wonder how many obstacles/rocks we create, putting them in the way of our relationship with Jesus, or even being able to see him, or allow him to reveal himself to us?
Jesus is never the one to create or place the obstacles, it is only us who do that. But there is a challenge to what those obstacles are, and why do we put them there, after all, all that Jesus wants to do is reveal himself to us, have that life-giving relaitonship with us, and enable us to have all that he has to give us.  
RolltheRock is all about removing obstacles, bringing freedom, releasing people into all that god has for them, we are not about placing obstacles, putting rocks in the way. If Jesus didn’t put obstacles in the way then we shouldn’t either!! 
So the rock was rolled away, an active movement on behalf of God to enable his son to rise from the dead, and reveal himself to people again.  What active movements do we have to make to encounter the living God, to build that relationship. Not only has god removed the physical rock to enable his son to rise from the dead, but in doing this God has removed all the obstacles from his side to that loving relationship with us, so we shouldn’t put any in to replace the one’s that god has removed. 
This Easter time, as well as thanking god for removing the rock, to enable his son to rise form the dead, let’s also ensure were people who move any obstacles we create, so we can encounter the living god.