Dream new dreams

Recently, I had the fortune to go with a close friend to see U2 perform the Joshua tree in concert, it was an amazing evening on many levels, but profound to here them perform the whole of this album, which they had not done before, but also recognise the prophetic nature of this album for the time we are in now, not just for the time when it was released 30 years ago.

One song that stood out, was In Gods Country, and the opening lines: "desert sky, see beneath the desert sky, rivers run, but soon run dry, we need to dream new dreams tonight."

Having not just worked with young people, and released leaders, over a number of years, I recognise the prophetic and challenging nature of these words.

As I reflect upon them, i am reminded of where I used to go as a boy on holiday, and one of our first reflections on arriving there, was that the rivers on the strand beach, had changed! often in width, or depth, but more often than not, in direction, but still the river flowed.

In these words from U2 certain things stand out:

1: Desert: for so long now so many have observed the desert nature of where we are currently at in regard to youth discipleship. observing that not only are fewer young people engaging with God, or the christian faith, but fewer are holding on to that as they grow older. the landscape for which youth discipleship currently exists, is very much a desert landscape.

2: the River: the words in this song, are so poignant, as they say, "rivers run, but soon run dry". There are indeed rivers in the desert landscape of youth discipleship, but these are rivers that are largely formed out of how we have defined the river in the first place. We have decided that the river of youth discipleship has to look and flow in a certain way, if not, then it isn't discipleship. Similar to the river of my childhood, i wonder whether we have to become more open to the river flowing in different ways, changing courses, and not being defined by how we want or expect it to flow, but defined, by where it naturally flows. Often we have got stuck into a place that says that God only disciples in certain ways in certain places, and placed our human expectation upon how discipleship takes place, without recognising where the spirit is flowing, and where God is at work. Similar to the river of my childhood, which adapted to its surroundings, and habitats, i wonder whether it is time for us to lose our constructed definitions of how the river of discipleship should flow, and be open to where God is moving.

3: dreaming: these words moe than any other have stuck with me since seeing U2 on that night at the beginning of July. "we need to dream new dreams tonight", and why? well just remember what the previous line said, the "rivers soon run dry".
Even though there are rivers of discipleship which are there in our desert landscape now, the reality is that more and more of the defined structured rivers are running dry, which is why we need to dream new dreams.

We should give thanks for those rivers that are still flowing, but also recognise that those rivers are getting fewer and fewer, and starting to run dry, and maybe part of this is because the rivers are not adapting to the context that they need to flow in.

For so long we have held on to our constructed definitions of discipleship and not asked the question first, where is God at work? where is his spirit flowing? If we actually asked these questions first, then maybe, just maybe, the rivers would be a greater feature in thelawdscape, and not be running dry so quickly.

So where are the dreamers? are we prepared to release them, support them, encourage them? Are we recognising those who are up for and able to redefine how the river of disciplehsip can look, to enable more rivers to stand out and less of the desert stand out.

Wouldn't it be great if in 5, 10, years time, we were recognising more rivers and less desert? More young people were encountering God, and not just for a short period of time, but for life?

As I said, referring to the river of my childhood, no-one ever said, that because it changed, or didn't look like it did the previous year, it is no longer a river! it still held its identity as a river, and maybe this is our challenge, to stop thinking that everything has to look like the way it always has done, and that is the only way it can look!

We need to dream new dreams tonight, if not then the rivers will indeed continue to run dry, and the desert will not only continue to be the dominant feature, but increase in its domination.

If you don’t expect, then what do you expect?

Is it possible that often we underestimate people, ourselves, and even God?
How much of our time is living in hope rather than expectation?
If we ask for something and only hope, not expect, should we be surprised if it doesn't happen?
Do we actually believe that all things are possible, or do we hold ourselves back by our thinking?

These are just some questions that could well be useful to reflect upon as leaders, perhaps as people seeking to see something different happen, people to join our teams or to see transformation in an area.

If God our father says he has good gifts to give us, then shouldn't we believe that he is giving them to us?
Maybe one reason for not seeing as much transformation in an area could be due to how we think, and rather than believing and being expectant, we are at best hopeful.

For one, I am believing in what I believe God has called me to be and do, and in believing that, I am believing that God will give me and RolltheRock all that we need - to do what he wants us to do and to be all that he wants us to be.

Is it possible that some of our lack of expectancy is due to a struggle for our identity, and truly knowing who we are in Christ?

As disciples who are called to make disciples, what do we offer if our own identity is still in a negative place and we are not getting to grips with how God actually looks upon us and others as well?

For this generation, I am believing in purpose, a plan, hope for their lives and so much more, but I am believing this, not just hoping it.

So, what do you think:
1: what stops us from expecting from God?
2: what holds us back in our beliefs?
3: what does it mean for us to have a strong identity in Christ?
4: what would it mean to stop hoping and start believing?

Who to listen to

All of us, I am sure, will be able to name those people who have spoken positively into our lives - and even those who have spoken negatively into our lives!! How people speak into our lives often has an impact upon how we react to others! Either we go completely the other way or we totally embrace the words that have been spoken over us, and we continue to speak in the same mannerisms!!

We often hear people speaking about young people, and let's be honest, a lot of it is negative. But I wonder if some of the reaction from young people is due to the negative approaches demonstrated or shown to them in the first place?

Countering negative comments can be draining, tiring, stressful, and often leave people feeling thoroughly beaten up emotionally.

Somewhere, somehow, there needs to be - has to be - a culture change so the negativity is reduced and the positive is emphasised.

James, in his book in the Bible, refers to the tongue as a weapon, and he also suggests that at times it needs taming!!!

I wonder - when our tongue moves, when noises come from our tongues - is it a negative or positive noise that comes forth?

Do we build up, or do we knock down?

Do people feel believed in by us, or do they feel torn apart by us?

Jesus says in John 10.10 that he comes to bring life in all its fullness, but the devil comes to steal and destroy. Can we possibly change the culture and learn to live out of that fullness, enabling others to live out of that fullness, rather than allowing the stealing and destroying to take place?

As a leader, I know who are the life-giving talkers in my life, and who are the people who take away from that, so I know more and more whom to pay attention to. And I would want the same for any young person whom I work with - to know who to listen to - who are the encouragers and who are the ones who destroy!

Not only do I want to live a life of fullness, I am believing the same for young people all around me.

Consistency of Salt

I am no cook!!!!  But my taste buds work really well, and I know what I like and what I enjoy the taste of.

Why is this?
Well yes, part of it is to do with the fact that my tastebuds work, which I am very thankful for, but the more important part is the flavour and how the flavouring works.

Flavouring is what attracts us to eat something and to go back to it and even to enjoy eating it all over again. Let's be honest, if we don't like the taste of something, we ain't going to try it again!!

Salt is one of those key flavourings - certainly not the only one by any stretch - but a common one and key one for many at a meal time. And yes, it does flavour our food really well, but why?

One reason is the make-up of salt: its consistency enables it to do what it should do - it doesn't change into something else just because it engages with other food types. It is able to remain an influencing factor in our food because it remains as it is!!

Jesus talks about people being salt in Matthew, chapter 5. He refers to people being that influencing factor in the world and encourages us to be the salt that the world needs. I guess he says wanting us to keep our consistency and be that influencing factor that remains good, honest and as it should be.

We can only be the salt to the world if our consistency is right and we remain who we are meant to be.

So, can we live up to our call to be salt to the world?
Is our consistency right to enable us to be that salt?
Are we able to be that influencing flavouring to the world?