Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Loud and Clear

N.B. Today, has been an awesome day. Read on to find out more.

Over the last few weeks, I've not had many of them. There have been plenty of okay days. And a few alright ones. And a fair few really crappy ones. But rare are the days when I can say, "Today has been great." The last few weeks I've been feeling pretty low and vulnerable to hurt, criticism and things not going to plan. All of those things, as well as general busyness and not managing my time very well led to me feeling particularly down last week, and then with my back playing up... everything was pretty dire. I generally try not to show that part of me to most people, but those closest to me see it, or know it.

Anyway, at the weekend I was away(ish) camping with the Junior Section of Hutton Free Church. 8 boys, 4 leaders including me. It was a nice weekend... albeit exhausting, frustrating, loud, pretty sleepless, and because of my trapped nerve, painful. The problem is, that I am one of those people who feels lonely a good 80% of the time, especially when I am surrounded by people who I don't really know 'me.' So although it was a good weekend, and I enjoyed it, I was lonely, and by the time I got home on Sunday afternoon I was desperate for a hug. (It had also been 4 weeks since I last saw Dan, so I was pining.) My two best friends were in London at HTB so they weren't around to meet up/talk to. But instead of laying on my bed crying (which is a general post-weekend away reaction) I somehow found the strength to spend the afternoon doing random little things, (like re-stringing my guitar and browsing Wikipedia) to keep myself busy. And wouldn't you know, my awesome best friends popped in for ten minutes to see me on their way home that night, so I didn't feel forgotten and left out.

But Monday morning I awoke feeling less than energetic about the day. It was my day off, and I'd woke early so I could book myself a Doctor's appointment, and spent the morning pottering about doing odd bits. After the Doctors appt. I wandered over to HSUC where I share an office with Alex to collect my folder for the groups that evening that I had stupidly left behind. Alex was having an 'out of the office working' kind of day, but he popped in for something I was just sitting at my desk sorting some bits out. We didn't speak much, but Alex is one of my best friends in the world, and he just knew that I was feeling 'bleurgh.' So just before he left again he leant down to where I was sitting and kissed me on the top of my head. It was such a spontaneous thing, but in that single second, my day changed. That one small act of love and care broke through my dark clouds and melted my apathy. It made me smile.

The rest of the day went really well. I felt so much more calm and relaxed about the day. Both the clubs that I was helping at/leading that evening went great. I felt energetic, enthusiastic, cheery. And as I went to bed that evening, I felt okay. I wasn't surrounded by the usual dark mist of loneliness that tends to settle in around that time everyone else logs off. I got myself into bed before midnight, and I lay awake in the darkness, I remembered how it felt to be kissed on the head, like a child sitting on her parent's lap, I felt protected and cared for, loved and reassured that everything was going to be okay. And although it was Alex that did it, it was more than that. It was God, knocking on all the bad cloudy thoughts and telling them to be quiet for just a few seconds. It was God, surrounding me with His love and care and reminding me that He would protect me through the storms. It was God's great Fatherly arms that wrapped around me and held me tight. And so as I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, I smiled to myself, knowing it was going to be okay.

And that was yesterday. And today was also a great day. I was happy, but I was more than that. I had found rest in my soul. I could laugh and joke and be silly and enjoy being with my friends, colleagues and the kids I work with. I could genuinely say that I was 'good' when someone asked how my day was. That is such a rare moment in my life that I was almost willing people to ask me how I was!

But you know, I'm not saying that every morning I am going to awake feeling on top of the world: I have lived long enough to know that mountain top experiences don't last forever. The dark clouds that frequent my heart and mind come thick and fast, like a thunderstorm, but that one small gesture, that amazingly awesome moment when God barged into my life with flashing lights and a siren... well, I just thought that deserved a blog.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


N.B. I've been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now. It just so happens that I have nothing else to do on this Saturday evening so the blog has been written! No apologies if this blog offends you in any way. I speak from my heart, and this was on it.

Children & Adults = Church.

What does that equation mean to you? Perhaps you have a vision of children and adults, worshipping together in collective song, giving, prayer, teaching and Bible reading. Perhaps there is a few under enthusiastic-ly sung kids songs, and perhaps a 'Something for Everyone' talk. But more and more I see this happening:

Adults - Children = Church.

I witness children being ignored, told to be quiet, shuffled into a corner, talked over, talked about, glared at if they are making noise, told to sit still during the prayers, and more often than not expected to want to sing songs that are 60+ years old with no real explanation of the complex theological words used within them; and sometimes for no other reason than they rhyme... sort of. What is this "church" we have created? 

During a Baptist child dedication service, the church congregation says they will do all they can to assist the child in their faith as they grow. Is that what we are doing in our church services*? I used to be optimistic. Or maybe I just used to be slightly more ignorant. But more and more recently, I've recognised the general attitude towards children in churches... and it's shocking when you take stock of it. As adults we like to send our children to the best schools we can, with good teachers who encourage and take care of and inspire our children to achieve goals and dreams as they are able.  We choose people to be around our children that we think will care for them, inspire them and teach them about the ways of the world and how to live right. Why then, are we not wanting the same for them in their faith?

When did the enthusiasm for holding children at the HEART of God's family wane so badly? Did we just forget? Did we get so tied up in Hymn 104 that we forgot that our principal duty as stewards of God's kingdom is to pass the joy and acceptance and belonging in Christ's family onto the next generation and the next generation? What are we teaching our children by waiting until they are out of room before we do anything of real spiritual significance? That they aren't good enough or old enough to be followers of Christ? No wonder the 11-30's are leaving the UK church in their drones. They feel pushed away. They feel cheated. They feel bored. They feel out of place.

The thing I love about the Soul Survivor summer camp is that nothing is hidden from the young people. During the services, worship, prayer, communion, ministry, healing, jokes, songs, fun times, bad times, are all shared. As one family of 8000 or more children AND youth workers, they don't hide from the teenagers the struggles, nor the times of connecting with God. They see and experience God at work. In that place. And they see and experience the adults around them worshipping with their heart. Did the kids think I was a bit crazy when I felt like dancing during worship? Sure they did! But did I hide my joy in Christ from them? No. Why do we feel then that we must hide these things from them in our own little congregations?

We MUSTN'T be afraid to invite these children to the heart of our collective meeting with Jesus. We must involve them in the prayer, the worship, the tears, the laughter and the relationship.  We must not give the impression that we know all the answers. We must widen our tolerance. We must not allow negativity and choosiness to enter our churches as we seek to worship as collective individuals. Let ALL be welcome. Otherwise we're just a dying congregation, a clanging cymbal that has no love for the small or the vulnerable of this world. And we miss out on all the blessings God has poured on our young people and our children to share with us.

I leave you with this:

"After the christening of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him three times what was wrong. Finally, the boy replied, "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I wanted to stay with you guys."

* I know that church services aren't the only thing that churches involve children in. You might have the most spectacular youth and children's clubs, or even Sunday school. But if we can't accommodate children in the oldest, most central way of meeting together as God's family, then what's the point?