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.”

Lotus positions and broken chains

My 10 year old son’s homework this week was to make a model that represented peace, as he understands it.

He went through a few ideas – a heart, two hands holding each other. In the end he opted for someone sat, legs folded and hands together. The word that led him there, was quietness.

I was interested. When I pray for peace for him at bedtime, my mind is on broken chains, freedom from guilt and shame; quietness, yes, but internal and deep. I wonder if he takes my prayers to be a simple and not very subtle hint that now’s the time to shush. Well, I guess it’s a bit of that too, and that’s not so bad; I know that the sort of peace I hope for him is a life journey and beyond.

Which takes me on to the funeral I sadly attended this week. Peace is a word that gets used quite a lot at funerals; heavenly rest, comfort in grief, the stillness of those moments in which we reflect and remember. This was a simple cremation that brought friends and family together in love. It wasn’t a funeral full of people who are knowingly running after God, but I earnestly hope for the peace of the eternal to be known by each who attended. I believe that one day, at least, it will be.

My son hadn’t been able to tell me why he’d considered the heart, nor the hands, when he first set about deciding on what to make for his model. I assume they are symbols he’s picked up from somewhere, in a way that we might choose a dove but not always know why we choose it. I wondered what I would make if I’d been given that homework. What about you?

Shalom.

Ness

Space to Be

Yesterday, at the final session of a parenting course I've been co-running, one of the parents stated that the best thing she's done as a result of the course is to slow down a little. This afternoon, I listened to one of the many fine tributes given to Sir Terry Wogan after his death this week, and I was reminded again of this virtue - slowing down a little, taking time to appreciate, leaving space to think and to put the right things at the top of the priority list. Apparently Sir Terry was very good at this.

So, it's  a bit of a cheat for my first post for RollTheRock because I actually wrote this back in 2014. However, it seems apt to return to it today...

The debate over longer school hours and testing at 4 has been a hot topic in recent times. While the adults argue it out in Whitehall and via social media, our young people are grappling with the things of relationships, social groupings, what to wear, what not to wear, hormones, growing up, growing out, peer pressure, homework, parents, exams, bullies, GCSE choices, A-Level Choices, University Choices, career choices, extra-curricular choices and what to do on Saturday night.

For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there." Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, "This is the resting place, let the weary rest"; and, "This is the place of repose"— but they would not listen. (Isaiah 28)

Limited resources and an unfortunate mirroring of the adult world mean that there is increasing pressure for youth work provision to be targeted and quantifiably justified. But what if, for just two hours a week, there was a space where our young people weren't disempowered, but weren't actively "empowered" either; weren't neglected, but equally weren't bombarded with schedules; weren't left in ignorance, but neither were subject to the latest training programme, short course or issue-based discussion? What if there was space for them to get bored, flirt with each other, occasionally argue with each other, text each other when they're only two metres apart, discuss music with each other, hit the shuttlecock into the roof recess (again!), share secrets in the farthest and darkest corner of the hall?

What if we gave them a safe space just to be?

When our young people are being forced to follow us into our world of pressure, stress and "I'm far too busy", would that be so bad?

(Ness Brown)