I love the Church – One Spirit

Last Spring we had a weekend away celebrating a friend’s birthday. On the Sunday I woke early and having looked up some churches, by googling “Jesus in…” and scrutinising the “welcome”, “about” and “what we believe pages” to make sure they lined up with scripture, I narrowed it down to two. Three of my children came with me.

By the time I’d found a parking space and got the children out of the car, the service had already begun. I peered in through the door at the back. The room was full. Everyone was standing and all I could see was a sea of silver hair. It was quiet, too quiet. “Oh no” I thought, I’ve made a mistake this isn’t going to be toddler/child friendly. A few years back I’d taken three age three and under to a service at a beautiful medieval church with spectacular decorations and heady Christmas scents. We were the only young family in sight and as we shuffled along the pew an older lady looked at us and leaned into her friend and said “well this should be interesting”.

Well, I wasn’t sticking around at this church, I turned around and signalled to the children to head back out the main door, maybe we could make it to the other church. But as I walked out the Holy Spirit turned me one eighty degrees and led me in. I tentatively walked back to the entrance of the room, the people were still standing and this time instead of looking and listening, I saw and heard. I saw that the people were stood up in prayer, and members of the congregation were, in turn, praying out loud. They were praying in the spirit. It was the most beautiful sight and sound.

We walked towards four empty seats at the back and sat down. A lady in the row infront turned and gave us a warm smile. As we stood to sing, another lady produced some baby musical toys, a flag and a tambourine and gave them to my children. We sang “Your Presence is Heaven to Me”, fifty or so voices, one guitar, all for Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound more beautiful.

We were then invited to the children’s room were there was an array of crafts, toys, activities, drawing and colouring materials and snacks. The children happily played while I sat nearby and caught the sermon, which happened to be on Expectancy. Physically surprising but spiritually unsurprising my home Church was also to preach on Expectancy in the weeks after.

After the service my children ran up and down and weaved in and out of the rows of seats while I chatted to a couple of people. I was invited to stay and have lunch. While tables were being laid I learnt that this church hadn’t had any young families in for years, the only other child I had spotted was someone’s grandchild. All their children had grown and left the area and they were praying for young people to come. Now it made sense how joyfilled they were to see my children squealing, jumping and twirling all over the place.

They hadn’t had children in in years but they were ready, ready with the box of instruments, crafts, colours, stories and snacks. This was expectancy. This was Amen. I was so moved by the faith I saw in this small church in a little old building in the off season of a seaside town. We sat and enjoyed the most delicious ploughman’s together and I was greatly encouraged from conversations with a lady and a couple.

As the children and I returned back to the cottage to join my friends and rest of my family, I marvelled at all I’d seen. I love the church, I was home even though I was away from home. I am born again, born of the spirit and born into a whole new worldwide family in Christ. We walk this life with the faith we have been given and these faith filled spiritual prayers are not earthly prayers, they are powerful, fruitful and unfailing.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

Hebrews 11:1-2

I Love the Church – Jesus

I’ve shared the gospel with a man who was a vicar, a man who was taxi driver and a spiritualist church member and every single Jehovah’s Witness who has come to my door. A fortune teller invited me in to her hut to show me some handmade jewellery, we spoke about the unseen and what truth is, she said there are many ways and that all are right. I said there is only one truth, Jesus, he is the way, the only way, at this she physically shoved me and the baby I was carrying out of the door. I’ve prayed at the bedside of one close to death, in his last days and old age his heart softened to the gospel. I’ve commanded spirits causing psychotic issues to leave a lady who was homeless. I have felt a golf ball sized arthritic swelling on someone’s knee shrinking under the palm of my hand on praying for healing. I’ve had countless online conversations with people about Jesus; speaking truth into areas where there have been religious lies. I’ve been called all kinds of names, been ridiculed, even accused of harming my children because of my faith.

Jesus, blazing bright the extraordinary in me and through me. Who am I? I’m the most ordinary individual! The Holy Spirit has taken me on this wild adventure and it’s only just the beginning.

In the Autumn last year I received news that a family friend had made the trip to the UK, fallen ill with a stroke and was in hospital. She had little support. During our holiday we were able to make the journey to see her. As I was praying in the car, I asked Jesus what she needed. My mum had given me a list but I just felt there was something more. I prayed about this and the word ‘Slippers’ came. Slippers? We stopped at a supermarket and I picked up a few toiletries and there happened to be the biggest display wall of slippers I’d ever seen! I didn’t even know her size or what style she would like. ‘Jesus which ones’ I prayed. I took a dainty pair down and put them in my basket.

Arriving at the ward, the lady who I’d known in my childhood was sitting in bed. I arranged all the bits I’d brought for her and spent some time with her. As I spoke to her, my arm stretched out over the bleak ward filled with the elderly and sick and I showed her the expanse of a beautiful horizon and said ‘the world may have forgotten you but the Lord hasn’t, God loves you.’ I prayed healing over her. When it was time to go, she began packing up all the things I’d brought for her to give back to me. I assured her they were for her. Then she picked up the slippers and looked at them. She looked at them for a long time. And as I quietly watched her face, she softly breathed out one word, “Jesus”.

In the days later I contacted a nearby church, a Church that shone Jesus, and I asked if someone could visit and just be there for her. A lady rang me saying she would go. She did. She sat with her and talked with her, text me and called the visit a blessing.

This is the Church. The body of Christ.

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”

Colossians 1:18

I Love the Church – Blazing Light

The end of Summer came too soon last year and the main reason for this was the incredible beach mission we went to every day for two weeks. There were events for all the family and holiday clubs for children aged 0-18. My daughters happily skipped to their groups; sang songs, learnt dance routines, did crafts. There were parties, water fights, family fun nights, children’s choir performances and so much more. One fortnight, over ninety volunteers, a hundred and forty hours of free activities and hundreds of children attended.

At one of the afternoon events a volunteer, who had been involved with the mission for three decades, stood and spoke to all about the love of God in Jesus Christ. We were all outside and it was a beautiful summer’s afternoon. My son was running around at the back and as I was trying to keep up with him, I looked up and the big tree in the middle of the grounds was ablaze and all I could think was “this fire can be seen for miles around”, God’s love blazing in communities through the church.

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ephesians 3:10-11

The Secret Place

As the glimmers of a new season start to appear with the first snowdrop or copper coloured leaf, the Lord leads us into the new. What a gorgeous time it’s been waiting on Him and reclining in the secret place. Refreshed and renewed.

Eighteen months ago I wanted to write on Truth in time for Christmas but I found I couldn’t write and share from a place of overflow so I didn’t. One word that breathed into me during that time was “rest”. “Okay Lord,” I said “I’ll rest for January, that’s really sweet of you. I’ll have a newborn, it’s good to rest.” But then I struggled to write again. Okay I’ll write on Truth for Easter. Again no overflow. I questioned whether the Lord had left me, (of course not! Deut 31:6!). Of course I could have written on Truth from my intellect, but that never measures up to writing from wisdom. I wanted nothing less than to write from the complete overflow of Jesus. Months of wilderness, moments of thick blackness and a rising of deep issues. Jesus was stripping away the world from me, He was gently untangling the deep knots I had made into his perfect knit. All the moments I believed Jesus had pushed me away (because life had got hard) he was actually drawing me in to be near to Him. To just be still.

As I live, breathe and sing the gospel, I’m amazed at the extraordinary encounters he sets up in my very ordinary life. Humbled when total strangers start to talk about the deep issues on their heart. I’ve spoken to so many people over the years telling of his great love for all and reflecting His passion for the hearts of all people. Through it all the Lord was letting me know he hasn’t forgotten me, He delights in me, He leads me to meet him in the secret place. As a mother calls her children in from the garden, he was calling me back in to tell me how much he loves me. He wipes my face, tends to my wounds, builds me up and makes me ready for new places. He places scriptures in my heart as I sleep peacefully then He wakes me up with songs.

I was throwing my son up in the air the other morning and always for the first throw his eyes are wide for a split second when he realises he’s left the safety of my hands and then he squeals with joy to fall back in them, again and again with less and less fear, putting his arms up for me to throw him up one more time. He was giggling as I squidged him and kissed his cheeks and neck over and over. I saw so clearly how God loves me. Where ever He throws me, He’s got me. He just can’t get enough of me. In His arms, in the secret place, it’s the relationship that matters and comes first. Everything then overflows from the beauty of just being with Him.

The Church

Who knows that terrible boredom in a church service? The type of boredom that makes you want to peel your skin off and the dread that rises as you realise that the sermon may actually never come to an end.

We walked into an old church a few months ago and the children had such fun playing in the pews, singing round the alter and reading from the pulpit. It was a lovely sight as only a few days previously I had been praying that I wanted my children to always feel at home in any church they entered. I was brought up very familiar with church environments and my children are not as we don’t go very often. This long season of my life has really taught me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Not to rely on tradition, religion, nostalgia; the smell of old hymn books, the creek of oak pews, soft light through the stained glass. All lovely and good but the church is not made from mortar and stone, it is made of people (1 Peter 2:5) Church is not an activity to be done each week but it is who we are. My place in this season is not within the physical walls but outside of those walls ready with the Good News. Good news which everyone is invited to receive, those inside nightclub walls, sat beside supermarket walls, hanging around sitting on walls, surrounded by marble walls, trapped behind prison walls, confined to religious walls, those who have built their own walls and everyone who is yet to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalm 34.8) because through Jesus, God has smashed down the wall that kept us from him, the wall that blocked our hearing, took away our sight and darkened our hearts to Him. Once we receive His gift of salvation we are given a new heart, a new spirit, (Ezekiel 36:26) our hearing and sight is restored and His word is then welcomed balm for a softened heart and not painfully boring arrows rebounding off a hardened heart.

For a long time I thought Church was about weddings, funerals, Sundays, Christmas and Easter. But Church is every day, every second of the day; hallelujahs in the car, blessings in the street, forgiveness all round, lavishing love on enemies. Bringing healing to the hurting, grieving with those who grieve, worship in hospitals, singing praise in crematoriums. The church is one family that spans across continents and denominations, breathing in scriptures, speaking His word, living life spirit led and fully free, walking in power over all darkness. Hearts blazing in inextinguishable light. Our brokenness exposed. Shedding our old nature and walking in the new. Having everything in common with someone we just met because we have the same Heavenly Father. Praying for each other. Pouring out gifts that have been poured into and over us. Overflowing with immeasurable joy through all circumstances and always ready to give an account of the hope we have to anyone who asks. (1 Peter 3:15) Church is new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) , thankfulness for every blink and breath and fully resting in and reflecting His glory.

“ But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18