Unsurprisingly suprised - Jesus Army Life, Day168

Last night we had a good time. Overloaded with teenagers yet again (our Thursday cook is quite used to the random numbers by now), I led the extended grace time with a reading of Aslan's resurrection in the Narnia book: 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'. While most of the younger ones had seen the film there was a look of surprise on their faces to think that the story carried a Christian theme. And a sister led us in an upbeat song celebrating Jesus in our lives.

Personally, I'm learning more and more to think like a teenager again. I can't say I do a great job but I have many moments of remembering that I used to act and think the same way. At their age I must have heard the gospel too many times to count but I had never tuned in. So their surprise wasn't really too surprising. What counts, and what worked with me, is the amazing work of the Holy Spirit, so and we have to be ready, and ready with every opportunity to explain why we hope in Jesus.

After dinner (and a short word with one of the young lads about why we weren't surprised by his sex and drugs language, but expected him to speak respectfully all the same), another leader gathered everyone under 25 together to explain: "the cause of the cross". His message was simple but revolutionary: if we want to follow Jesus we have to let the cross work in our lives too. He explained that the work of Jesus' death and life had the power to bring necessary change, nothing else really effects such change on an individual level. He invited us to declare what we were going to "put on the cross" and receive the red cross each Jesus Army member wears in return (a red cross for blood, red for fire, red for revolution). In it's own way it was a powerful and sacramental time. For me, there is a need to bury my pride, my self-will and independence if I am to truly follow Jesus and so I joined with the others in receiving my cross.

Following this there was a bonfire in the snow and then we took the teenagers home. I don't know if it's good to say this, but we've become quite good at managing the weekly melee of youth that visits White Stone on Thursday nights. We're learning to expect the unexpected - after all, real living can only take place in the presence of an unpredictable God who promises to mess up our lives and replace the mess with himself. Perhaps God is teaching us too to be spiritual mothers and fathers, and mothers and fathers of other households in time to come.

Returning from the 40 minute tour of teenagers homes it felt good to relax in adult company. Many of the older visitors were still there and were giving a certain elder a ribbing about wearing marigolds to throw snowballs (for the fifth time this week), there was a lot of joking and friendship around. Spending time in the companionship of peers allows us a vulnerability we can't explore in the presence of the younger ones. Obviously, we still have a lot of growing up to do ourselves.


Meeting of worlds - Jesus Army Life, Day 166

Having my Dad to stay for the last few days has been excellent. Everyone seemed to get on with him. It was a bit like the meeting of two worlds. Family is very important to me, I know it's important to God too. One thing I neglected to do was contact my younger brother until a couple of days after Christmas, I hope he's okay.

Currently we've got a friend stopping over from Denmark/Sweden. He's a great guy and working his way forward as a Christian. Hopefully I'll get to spend some time with him tonight.

Lots has happened over the last few days, good and bad, but mostly good. So some stuff to talk about over the next few days...


Staying close to reality - Jesus Army Life, Day 161

Life is beautiful, sometimes.

I feel like I haven't really seen community the last few days. It's all been a bit busy, and I've missed a few opportunities to reconnect my spirit with its Source.

It was good today then to pray with my friend first thing before we started work. We try to pray together each morning to help us keep a heavenly perspective on our working lives.

The best thing recently I guess was dinner together on Wednesday. It was a small crowd but good humoured and a few laughs as well. I'm not sure what it is but there's something about meeting with other people in a relaxed way that can just re-energise a soul.

This afternoon I'm going to pick up my Dad who's coming to stay for the Christmas weekend. Not that we actually celebrate Christmas. Our church has taken a stand against celebrating special days. It's part of our flavour of rejecting the world and aspiring to a "Your Kingdom come on earth" lifestyle. Still, it should be an excellent few days together, we have a few plans as a community and it'll be good to spend some time with my Dad.

Stay radical won't you.


Traveling together - Jesus Army Life, Day 160

On Monday I got together with a couple of guys I'm mentoring. We talked about being real Christians, not just men who carry the label. We prayed for each other and spoke together of future dreams.

It was good to realise that both of them are "switched on" to God. It's a privilege to be traveling with them.


Edge of self (part 2) - Jesus Army Life, Day 158

I need to talk about love. Yes, okay, romantic love, but not only that type of love, parental and spiritual love too. The whole caboodle, the pink candy flossy stuff, the deep mystical kind, the "...but it's 3 'o clock in the morning, again!" type. All of it.

Another excellent conversation I had this weekend was with my brother's wife. She's in the throws of discovering motherhood. And, wonderfully, she feels like she's fallen in love all over again. But it's more than sentiment to her, she feels a mystical quality about it too. She is experiencing life, not only in new ways, but through new eyes, and to her it is as if her senses have come alive, and perhaps sharpened, as a result.

I've heard other people describe similar experiences before, but curiously when talking about God, not motherhood. For me there is something of a link between the two, and why not? Each have their own value and both highlight the benefit of loving others. In each there is the renewed possibility of 'living on the edge of your self'.

It's made me think I've been somewhat foolish. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my own experience of brotherly love, in its affectionate yet nonetheless stoical guise, or my (*cough) failed and very short-lived attempts at romantic love, I realise I've become afraid of being overwhelmed by love of any kind at all.

I've believed, rightly, the teaching that love is about perseverance and loyalty, and forgot that love is also about adventure, discovery, otherness, beauty, the sublime, wonderment, mystery, living life at its fullest. Seriously, I had come to the point where I believed that "being there" was about as much as I could ask of anyone, or they could ask of me. I guess I got a bit institutional about it all. Shying away from being truly open about feelings with brethren, I got snarled up in my own selfishness. Hope died.

Only in my rather fuzzy reception of God's love has there been an awesome, jaw-dropping, depth of experience which has blown me away. (Though, even here, I wondered if I had been short changed.) The cold reality is: if you expect little you get little. In my spiritual life I've had to deliberately pursue God because I've known he's worth it. He offers stability and security but there is so much more to this eternal Father... how could we ever explore to the end? Surely it must be the same with other relationships too. Another soul should be seen as an adventure. Living for others can be a painful experience, but it doesn't need to be a joyless one.


Learning to laugh - Jesus Army Life, Day 157

"Living on the edge of the self." That was the thought which stayed with me from my conversation with my older brother. I was staying at his house this weekend which was very refreshing, he's a great guy and he loves to laugh and make others laugh.

Now I know he was talking about comedy and how useful it is in questioning the accepted order of things. And I agree. But what I took away was this sense that, above all else, it is so important to remain buoyant, to keep our joy alive. There is a secret there. It touches on how we give ourselves to God.

We human beings like to be secure, laughter however is based on a recognition that we are actually quite fallible. We can get bound up in a false sense of security, but true joy is based on the fact that we have God as our sure foundation. The paradox is that with God comes mystery and a sense of wonder, we can never know him completely; while he is security itself, discovering the divine is an eternal adventure. Laughter is a wonderful way of reminding ourselves that in this world we mustn't get too self involved. Dante called it the Divine Comedy, that Jesus actually called us to die in order to find eternal life.

P.S. It's good to be home.


Being safe - Jesus Army Life, Day 154

There's a young lass who's visited repeatedly recently. Something tells me that she truly wants to become a Christian, although I know that because she's only been around a few weeks, she has to feel that she can trust people first. She's very good at putting up her guard when she is asked direct questions (that's partially because her cultural background is different) but it really is just a front and there's quite a mixed up person underneath.

Frustratingly, although we're from the same cultural background, it's going to be important to leave this one to my 'sisters' in the household. The sisters do a really great job with helping the younger women find their spirituality. Nonetheless, I'm impatient for her to find trusted friendships soon so that she can make her way through to Jesus. My job is to pray.

We have a principle in community called 'holy segregation', it marks out clear boundaries for the opposite sexes. The intention is to help single men and women find their space without the pressure of flirtations which inevitably take place between sexes in a new social environment.

The rule is fairly simple: respect one another, don't over-associate with the opposite sex (give each other space) and trust the advice of friends (both sexes).

It is very useful. It allows women to feel safe and men to feel less pressurised to perform. We can avoid problematic situations, create wholesome brotherhood and sisterhood and therefore build up people's self confidence in an affirming way. An individual's true heart is quickly revealed by this discipline. It shows whether they want God more than having a good time and so, ultimately, spiritual growth takes place with less distraction.


I love you Jesus - Jesus Army Life, Day 153

This morning I woke up thinking, "I love you Jesus." There were many other thoughts mulched in with dreams from the night before, but that thought held central ground.

It was a good thing too. I didn't have too much time to get ready. The early time I'd planned with my God was fast ticking away and I would have been annoyed with myself if there hadn't been some sense of meeting God this morning.

I find I'm continuously trying to order my private world in order to fit in everything I want to do, and there's always more: prayer, bible reading plan, exercise, wider reading, saxophone, letter writing, social visits, trips, learning a foreign language... It's like an ever expanding vortex of things I'd like to do and these are just the tip of my iceberg of small ambitions; the most cherished ones would be: waking up in the morning on a beach, learning to gallop on a horse, being able to play at least one tune on a piano competently.

It's just as well Jesus does come somewhere near the centre, and that he insists on holding that ground. I know I'd far rather do the things of Jesus than achieve all my private dreams. The beauty of seeing others come to say "I love you Jesus" too is worth far more than the individual treat of satisfying some personal desire. It's the reason I live in community. The gathered eternity of these shared hopes and dreams is simply more precious.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46

Nonetheless, I must seek Jesus more...


At the Agape table - Jesus Army Life, Day 152

There was a lot of good laughter around the Agape table last night. A sign we are able to relax with one another.

The conversation turned to what music we listen to, whether it is something which feeds our soul or encourages our spirit. Everyone was keen to input the conversation, partially because everyone knew it touched their conscience, if not in the area of music then in some similar matter of reading, board-games or some other recreation.

As a daughter community of a much larger organisation we have a Community Charter which is very useful in helping us appreciate the rule for life we need to adopt.

I can almost hear the questions: Why do you need a 'rule'? I sometimes wonder about that too; but I know it is useful in directing us to keep our main aims of equality, simplicity and not loving the world. The simple things can creep in and dull our sharpness and, while there is no problem with activity for the sake of relaxation, we also want to be good soldiers, always ready to give our best to God.

So, we've decided to take a renewed look at our Community Charter in some of our breakfast meetings in the hope of improving our discipleship.

...what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule,
even to the Israel of God.
Galatians 6:15-16

The ultimate rule is love for God and love for one another.


Collected thoughts - Jesus Army Life, Day 151

Thoughts from last nights community meeting...

  • Community is a living organism not an institution. It needs to thrive, grow, reproduce and diversify. We exist for the glory of God and to love others.

  • Community means that our choices are in the hands of others. When difficult times come up we might be limited in what we can do, but it is right to stay in submission rather than take back our right to our own lives. Jesus said if we gain our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for his sake we will gain it.

  • Revival has not come, the blessing of a renewed Christianity heralded by the Festival of Light in the 1970s has not taken force. The church in the UK is largely ignored (except for stories about gay priests). We need a movement that cannot be ignored, where Christians take sharing together seriously and find God's blessing opening the way to the saving of many souls.

  • Obedience leads to blessing.

  • In community we don't hide from each other. We speak the truth to each other. Acceptance must not negate the tough love of telling someone when they've made a bad choice.

  • Community is difficult. But our best times are when we see God working in amazing ways in friends' lives. Those are the times we live for, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Feel free to add your thoughts...

A friend died recently

A friend died recently, I didn't know her very well, but she was always very loving. She had her struggles, she was an alcoholic; she loved Jesus, and she wanted him in her life.


Summary of Acceptance

The post below is a tad long. So here's a summary...
  • Acceptance works. Acceptance is important. It melts hearts and people are desperate for it.

  • Acceptance isn't as simple as you think though. People look in the wrong places for acceptance and find unconditional love difficult to deal with. And if you're trying to teach people what's right it's easy to suggest that you'll only love them if they make no mistakes.

  • It's good to remember that God accepts us totally, but none of us accept this easily. We all have a lot to learn.

Acceptance - Jesus Army Life, Day 150

Last night I visited my friends place and was just leaving when I bumped into his flatmates outside. Explaining that I was making my way home to bed one of my friends mates invited me back to stay longer, sealing his invitation with the compliment: "you're alright you are."

Cha-ching! I think those words clinched the deal and I stayed for another hour.

A couple of hours before we'd had a new guy round our place. He had been seriously self-harming and, while I was dubious about some of the company he kept, I invited his companion in as well because it was important to send out a message of acceptance rather than rejection.

Acceptance is incredibly important. It is the fuel of friendship. It is the key platform by which relationships are launched; especially among the young. I have a couple of friends who unwittingly do all they can to find the blessing of acceptance. Check that, I have many, many friends who operate on that level. But these two I'm particularly close to: both in their own way are desperate to be loved and both make huge mistakes in trying to win that affection, that is how crucial being accepted is to them. But neither is it the case that the acceptance hoped for is not on offer, it is, very much so.

As a church we have a motto:

All welcome. No prejudice.

In my experience this challenge of accepting others has to be brought down to an individual level. The reason is that the acceptance offered is rarely fully received. Sin (our twisted, Godless state) keeps us trapped in thinking the best fruit is elsewhere. And so it takes time to learn who your true friends are. God seems to spend most of his time helping us realise he loves us, yet we rarely get the message. If only we did. When you know you are loved, you can do anything. Sadly it takes time to learn.

So I've been learning lessons too. Principally I'm learning that being right doesn't help build relationships. If the other party doesn't understand the issue then they are likely to feel that they are the problem. Placing conditions on a friendship is truly destructive if it is not done with that unconditional love which God showed when he allowed himself to be killed to rescue us. Training disciples has to be ruled by the promise, the guarantee of a friendship for better or worse.

For the sake of others, the power of acceptance is a love-lesson we Christians must learn. I long for my two friends to know they're gonna be okay, if they just hang in there everything will be alright, Jesus guarantees it. And along the way there are numerous boxes to be ticked before they may realise they are loved: there's respect, understanding, encouragement, meaningful challenge, acceptance by and of their peer group, quality times, seeing the person not the action. Helping friends to get the point: "I accept you completely, as you are," can feel something like trying to tee-off on a golf range with short sighted vision.

I know there are times when, as a church, we've had to make hard decisions about someone because they've been out of order, but the dangerous message received by their peers can be one of rejection. Being cruel to be kind is necessary if we are to protect what is good, but I'm learning how important it is, if possible, to also avoid reaching that critical point where the message is: 'rejected'. Acceptance is a powerful essential. It matters. End of argument.

How can I show my love, since love is manifested in actions? I will not miss any sacrifice, any gesture of sensitivity, any word. Doing the smallest things out of love I will always sing about it, even though roses are to be taken care of in the midst of thorns.
St. Therese of Lisieux


Questioning - Jesus Army Life, Day 149

This morning I read Psalm 147. Characteristically, as with many of the latter psalms, it is full of praise for God. What struck me was that it praised God in the midst of trouble. The singer rightly glorifies God for restoring Jerusalem after the exile but he doesn't seem to question why the bad things happened in the first place.

Sometimes it is very important to focus on the positives in order to appreciate more fully the things that God is doing. But there are times when it must be necessary to ask the hard questions too. The questions in life, and especially in religion, which we'd rather gloss over.

I was asking God, and myself, some of those hard questions this morning. Why do I only see a limited amount of God's power at work? Why do we, his saints, waste his grace so much? What is going on when God is not moving in power at all? The answers aren't simple and I won't attempt to deal with such weighty stuff in one blog session, but it did occur to me that St Paul knew God's power and knew great times of struggle too.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
2 Corinthians 12:8

The fact Paul had to raise the issue three times would suggest he wasn't satisfied with God's response the first or second time around. But eventually he learns God's way: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

It would be all too easy to apply that answer to every unanswered question, especially when there are lessons to be learnt in the questioning itself.

Yesterday White Stone leaders met to discuss our next step as a household and household members did a similar exercise for their personal lives in the evening. Listening and providing feedback in these sessions helps to thrash out some of the issues we don't or choose no to see. But sometimes we have to go further and ask deeper questions of ourselves too, even if it rocks the status quo.


Chocolate and community - Jesus Army Life, Day 148

"Covetousness is a sin you know," I commented at the dinner table.
"That's easy for you to say when your portion is bigger than mine!" came the reply.

There had already been murmurs around the table that my bowl of ice-cream was bigger than everyone else's... I could sense rebellion was about to kick off, and so, being a principled communitarian, I quickly wolfed down my ice-cream before anyone else could get their thieving hands on it...

To Covet. Definition: (verb) to wish, long, or crave for (something, especially the property of another person); to be immoderately desirous of acquiring; a sin prohibited by the Ten Commandments.

Covetousness is probably the most un-talked about sin in modern Christianity perhaps because it invisibly pervades every part of the Western lifestyle. It's not particularly about portions of ice-cream, but it is what stops many Christians living a more community-orientated life.

Does community cure us of covetousness? Not if the ice-cream episode is anything to go by. Still, community cuts across the quickest of routes to covetousness by making sure we share our money and possessions and by enshrining simplicity as a way of life. In this way the "I want" factor is constrained by the "I will love" principle.

Nevertheless, at White Stone we have to have a 'chocolate deacon'. (How she got the job I'll never know.) Her duties are to store chocolate under her bed and bring it out at opportune times eg. entertaining guests, a gift, a small treat etc. It becomes a very useful role at Christmas time since it prevents all that excessive, weight gaining, munching which inevitably creeps in at this time of year.

Now, it may be a well known fact that all sisters, (ahem) store chocolate under their beds, but I'm really not sure how that experience made her any better for the job than me!


"Taking the land" - explanation

A friend let me know that I was using White Stone jargon when I spoke about "taking the land".

The phrase comes from the time when 'White Stone' started, before we had the community house. We used to dream of "taking the land," acquiring a place we could use to set up a community and work out our vision for church.

Biblically, the phrase comes from the story of Joshua, when he led the people of Israel in to take the promised land. The idea works as a metaphorical one too, because we often need to "take land" in terms of advancing in our personal character or winning the ground when it comes to evangelistic work.

Loose end - Jesus Army Life, Day 147

I'm wondering what I'm going to do tonight. Some kind of evangelistic networking I hope, but as there is no organised activity I really have no idea. If it comes down to a choice of slumming at home or living on the edge in faith among the people of the city I know what I'd prefer. So I've got to make something happen...

People are everything. Below, some of the troop who make Thursday nights worthwhile. (A much calmer atmosphere last night compared to the week before, something must have shifted.)

(Don't ask about the silver shiny thing at the front - it would take far too long to explain.)


Learning community - Jesus Army Life, Day 146

We have a 'community evening' coming up. It's an opportunity for both outsiders and insiders to find inspiration about living in a community. The insiders need inspiration as much as the outsiders do.

My concern is that the inspiration for those who don't live in community is very different from what is needed by those within.

For outsiders it's easy: share with them the challenge of Acts 2 and 4, talk about Paul's command of generosity and hospitality, talk about households of saints, talk about Jesus' common purse and his promise of lands, sisters, mothers, brothers (and persecutions), talk about how he said foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Talk about justice, equality, brothers in unity, a sense of peoplehood. Talk about the glory, power and wisdom of God manifesting itself in a society apart from the world. That's obvious.

My esteemed friend feels that all this, "communicated in the Spirit" is enough for old stagers to be inspired too. My position is different. I think that there is a problem when they've heard it all before. They're more likely to switch off. And community folk are doing it anyway so why how much can you inspire them with a message they are already obedient to? The inspiration needed for community folk has to answer the challenges not just dole them out.

The folk I live with every day need to know more about 'overcoming the world', especially when they still encounter its spirit-numbing poison. They need the encouragement to keep going through the joys and pains and the motivation to dig deeper into the reality of "dying so that others might live". They are desperate to be reminded that they too are only beginners at loving others, have barely plumbed the depths of brotherhood unity, are still needing to learn to live in the power of the life of the Holy Spirit. This is not the milk of basic teaching but the solid food of full understanding we're talking about.

And my real bugbear is that community really needs to be experienced, another 'talk' simply does not compare.


A life less ordinary - Jesus Army Life, Day 145

I'm afraid I've nothing much to say today. Well, not much anyway...

I'm reminded that in community there is sometimes this need to feel like you're doing something - because you know that you've abandoned society's norms there's an urge to feel like you're creating a more vibrant lifestyle. I don't quite see things that way. If I'm bored, I'm bored, if I want to party, I want to party, nothing wrong with that. The only rule that is important in community, in the Christian life at all, is love. Loving others, however you feel, whatever you're doing, loving others enough to take you out of yourself, allowing the 'life' of Christ to flow in that given situation, whatever it may be.

In love I find the only vibrancy of life I want to communicate. In love I find the security that makes me whole, that helps me to enjoy the world with eyes opened wide in wonder, that helps me feel with sensitivity and laugh with tenderness. If that love is touching others too, that's all I have to worry about.

I'm probably not saying anything too sensible today, but that's sort of the whole point. I don't need to. I am just happy to be alive, and entering into a life of love.


This spoke to me...

("This spoke to me..." What a strage phrase? Anyway, it did. It shouted so loudly I wanted others to hear it too.)

Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.

C. S. Lewis

Familiarity and contempt - Jesus Army Life, Day 144

Last night I was roundly told off by a friend for calling her by a particular name. No problem, it won't happen again. But it is a mistake I've made before with others. Fast learner I'm not.

So it's got me thinking about friendships and the things we value as individuals. Obviously I had crossed a line I should not have crossed. There are times when I've rebuked someone for a disrespectful use of a name with me too. The reasons are unimportant. We simply have to respect each other.

In community there are a multiplicity of relationships, all with their own rules and boundaries (and at this point I do want to say I'm sorry). When to call each other 'bro' or 'sis' and when not to. When to call someone by their 'virtue name' (spiritual names we often give each other). Why someone can call you a name in an affectionate social relationship that would never be used in wider society. Names you can use with the same sex but not with the other. And why there never seems to really be an appropriate colloquial term for women: girl, lady, lass, woman, when 'bloke' will usually do for a man? One would have to be an genius to write down all the rules, and I certainly put myself in the clueless category when perceiving a lot of this stuff.

The only conclusion I have is the advice of an older 'sister': "Err on the side of respecting others."


Spiritual karoke - Jesus Army Life, Day 143

It's good to have our 'brother' back from Australia. He brings a special quality of life to the household which I appreciate. We have a wonderful family staying for a few days too. The husband, wife and child are all long term members of White Stone. They are currently 'trying out community' for a few days at a time.

Worship continues to be an important theme to us. Not only in our meetings, but in all our moments, gathered together or apart. Both of these men are very down to earth types, who love brotherhood and they are great musicians. They bring a lot of inspiration when they 'psalm'.

Psalming, at least in charismatic circles, means singing out whatever comes to your heart. It is the spontaneous expression of a spiritual song to God and it carries weight. In our morning worship yesterday I psalmed out in front of the congregation of 250. I had to, I needed to deliberately praise my God. One of these brothers commented positively on it afterwards. He was encouraging and said that it helped "bring the anointing." The great thing about psalming is that, because people express their inner soul, it is will always carry some power, no matter how bad you sound. A kind of spiritual karaoke.

I'm discovering that it is important to work hard at finding God sometimes. If you think about the Psalms of the Bible they are full of lyrics saying "I will" do this, "I will" do that in order to praise God. My own walk with God has recently been one of deliberately giving up 'small' sins in order to choose him. The following isn't a psalm, but just something that came out of my time with God in the early hours of this morning:

I spoke to my friend this morning.
We discussed how I had to die,
And how he had to burn me up in fire.
He's a dangerous friend.


Prophetic sculpture - Jesus Army Life, Day 142

We're thinking about prophetic words we've received lately. Last night we made two sculptures to remind us about them for perpetuity (or as long as the double sided sticky tape lasts out).

This one is about God shaking our tree. The bad fruit falls to the ground but the good fruit remains. We've known some shaking lately.

This one is about our worship forming a character in which we can receive God's anointing. God's special anointing for us is the work of "taking the land." Our character of worship and the dynamic of taking the land rely upon each other.

And this isn't intended to be a prophetic word but a 'welcome home' to a much loved house-family member who has been visiting his parents for a month in Australia.

I hesitate to say what we score for artistic ability, but full marks for love and inspiration.


No choice but forward - Jesus Army Life, Day 141

Now that December has come round, we're thinking about plans for our household church to grow next year. There are several battles to fight and, God willing, we will prosper in them all; doing well in any of them will be significant.

We are looking at community growth, more baptisms, an increase in covenanted members and beginning some mission work in a new area. I know that I will be personally involved in all these areas and I hope many others from the household will be personally involved also.

Additionally, with the household motto being: "A character of worship and a dynamic of taking the land," there is need for several to 'take the land' in their own souls also.

Losing is not an option.


God at work - Jesus Army Life, Day 140

Yesterday, I discovered SuDoko!

And now onto more spiritual matters...

The teenagers were around in force yesterday. During the grace time before the meal we were asked to pray for each other. The group I was with were in rebellious mode. Three of the them would have made an effort but the other one (who had recently been pressing into finding faith) decided that he didn't want to play ball. Frustratingly, most of them did not feel ready to pray for blessing in their lives, so I asked instead about the complaints they had with God. These were more easily volunteered. We joined hands in the middle and I spoke for all of us. I told God how we had problems with him and that we needed him to answer our questions or we couldn't believe in him. Simple as that.

And when it comes down to it, it is that simple; no matter how we like to dress it up. We reach out in faith and we have no other resource until God shows up. We can only pray and not give up.

But God did show up. Two of the goths went into another room. Touched by the moment? I'm cynical enough to think not. But I felt I should pray again for one of the others left behind and as I did so I believe God showed me a secret that person had. I started to tell them about it and as soon as I did so they ran out of the room. Of course, that kind of stuff is spooky enough, but I caught up with the person later and we talked a bit more. I could only tell them that it showed God was interested in them and that if they wanted to take this further they should talk to someone they respected about it.

For that reason alone it was a good evening. Though I do wish we had more adults around. That said, credit is due to a friend of mine who now deliberately comes round on Thursdays to help out, even though he finds the teenagers difficult. That kind of sacrfice will be the making of him.

However, staying up till 2.15am to finish a 'Difficult' Su Doko puzzle will definitely be the undoing of me.


Da Sisterhood - Jesus Army Life, Day 138

Yesterday I'd printed off a music manuscript by Rebecca St James from worshiptogether.com. The website issues a new worship song each week and I've been trying to find a way to bless the household through this new gadgetry. But this is a truly complex matter. I've already written about my low level of musical intellect. I'm sure many would have advised to give up while the going's good. Eager as a beaver however I've been trying to learn the tunes myself. I can read music but it is a frustratingly slow process.

So, I tried to introduce the song to our most accomplished piano player in the hope that she would pick it up and get inspired. It was mad. Musically excellent she may be, but she's also brilliant enough to take on about twenty tasks at the same time... and she's never learnt to read music. Pia-pia-piano...So there I was painstakingly trying to teach her a tune she'd never heard before and she was hopping from the piano, to some artwork, to playing the mandolin, to making some drinks, to jamming with my saxophone. Arrrgggghhhhh!! Finally, I suggested I sing the song so she could once and for all learn how it goes. Big mistake... HUGE. Suddenly I was the object of teasing and cajoling from the other two older women in the room. Oh, it was a nightmare.

Why, oh why did I not concentrate more on those piano lessons when I was young?

I'm sure there are obvious lessons to learn from the above, which, when I've finished reeling I'll get to grips with, but for now the only lesson is (and it's been said before and it'll be said again....) Don't mess with the sisterhood!


The Transporter - Jesus Army Life, Day 136

In community we try to share transport as much as possible. Sometimes it can be a bit of a nightmare. A couple of weekends ago the 'transport deacon' had to make seven different lists for all the traveling that took on the Sunday. It doesn't exactly sound like living in simplicity does it? But he did make everyone else's life easier and he must have looked after about 30 people that day.

Last night, of course, it was snowing. To make it worse we were delayed leaving our office and the deacon had had to rearrange transport already because someone had to work late where he was too. We ended up transporting seven people home in the people carrier and arrived home 40 minutes later than intended, only to have to rush off again for the evening's church leaders' meeting.

Still, it makes life interesting, if not a little complicated sometimes.

(The meeting was excellent by the way, all about the 'Ziklag experience' where we leave behind our Saul mindset to find our David spirit... because it is not our character which achieves God's work but our availability for his purpose.)


Boomerang - Jesus Army Life, Day 135

A White Stone brother is over in Australia at the moment. We've been keeping in touch with him by email. I wonder how he's really doing though.

It's no doubt an important time for him to catch up with his parents but I hope it brings blessing and growth to his own soul too.

There is something about being away from the 'Body of Christ'. Like the proverbial boomerang, you're always glad to get back.


Speaking faith into dreams - Jesus Army Life, Day 134

"Why do you always do this to me?" she asked as I asked her to lead us in another old song she'd never played before. When God made me he ticked 'no' on the musical brain option, but I like to think my lack of music sus brings a raw edge to our worship experience... At least that's how I comfort myself when we fall about laughing at another musical blunder in the church times I lead.

This multitalented friend of mine quickly found the chords and we were soon singing and bopping away to another chorus. The theme of the evening had been 'church' and while it might not have scored too highly on profound thought we discovered an emphasis on 'family'. And the consciousness of God's life among us grew, even if it was with a note of hilarity.

At the endof the meeting, most of us drove over to another community house to celebrate the 50th birthday of a well respected saint. The room was packed full of friends and, as the community leader pointed out, most of them hadn't been around before she had come; in other words there were many who were there just to celebrate her place among us. It seemed like a suitable way to honour someone who has worked hard and set an example to us all in speaking faith into our dreams.

It's because of people like her that I continue my dream of gathering a people for God. Something which, by my own ability, I could not achieve.


Appreciative - Jesus Army Life, Day 132

Life is full of changes. Events keep taking place. You catch up with people you realise you should never have lost touch with. Thank goodness for those friends who stick with you for the long haul. Those who are committed to you in all the ins and outs of life. When you have friends like that you feel like the richest of kings - or at least I do.

In our church we make a big thing of covenant. And rightly so. Jesus didn't establish a 'new covenant' with God's people for nothing, it was done through his blood and it should mean everything to us. That covenant joins us together, it is a promise to never betray, but to always build with each other. At White Stone I can think of three people who are thinking of making a deliberate covenant in the by and by. I am very grateful. Their commitment, sacrifice and consecration will mean that more souls can be saved, more people truly loved, more people come to know Jesus and build the beauty of his church. It is a good thing.

Of course Jesus' covenant has to be worked out in the immediate context. It is the focused, local vision that galvanises a household of God into action. Our commitment together is a force to be reckoned with, it celebrates the love, purity, power and wisdom of Jesus as he works his Spirit in us. And it is this empowering that means we can spend time discipling younger ones, break bread together, commit ourselves to greater works, spend time in the company of one another's hearts, welcome the many with chaotic lives who know their need of Jesus. Jesus Army there is so much more for us to do...

Sorry, I haven't written lately - but, rest assured, that is what we've spent the last few days doing. And we need more labourers in the field.



One good turn deserves another...


Life is full - Jesus Army Life, Day 128

Life seems full of problems and joys, so, I'm planning to embrace both with energy.

What, after all, is the point of going through life simply ducking the issues that present themselves to you? And life without making the most of every joy would leave it tiresome and bland.

So whatever the exquisite curiosities of life, whether it be friends, early mornings, meetings, books, church, study, girls, fitness programs, family, small wonders, god, salvation, me, town life, strangers, conversation, cares, laughter, woes, food, distant friends, mini-victories, loved lost ones... I intend to enjoy it all.

Friday night was good by the way. And the weekend seemed typically busy. Maximum appreciation to everyone who made each bit possible.


Fearing to trust - Jesus Army Life, Day 125

Last night was a positive time. Lots of people around. Lots of gospel conversations happening.

Tonight is a scheduled time for the house family to be together. I'm not sure what is planned, we're just going to make sure everyone who lives in the community house is involved. Part of me is dreading it because of my current focus on trusting others more.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not all tense around other people. I love the friendship and banter we have. I'm just not very good at relaxing with people.

Still, I have no doubt it will be an excellent time...


Knock yourself out trust - Jesus Army Life, Day 122

I've been thinking about building trust (See 'Significance' below) and I haven't worked out much yet.

Trust is the basis of any friendship, you can't create it through a pumped up meeting, you can't have set trust-building times. Trust is what happens when you're not doing anything much.

Trust grows because you are there, in the right place at the right time.

If being there when you're needed produces trust then it means wanting to be around enough to put aside any other agenda. It means sacrificing your time. For me that means not hiding from the love of others through being overly-busy.

I need to deliberately choose to be with those I love rather than be off doing something else. Even if it does seem boring, scary, unemotional, knock-yourself-out, mind-numbingly pedestrian (at first...), achieving the beauty of friendship with those you're not naturally drawn to (but love anyway) is worth it. And God will bless it.


Best deserts - Jesus Army Life, Day 121

At the end of an eventful weekend I was sitting in the kitchen with some of the other guys forstalling the inevitable retreat to bed. We were chatting about various curiosities such as the days of egg collection at some of the farm-community houses, and the dozy hens we used to keep. "Silly hour" was kicking in with full force.

We danced over a range of topics: the coming week, a resident member feeling poorly, the chickens. Earlier in the day we'd shared baked alaska with the parents of a student friend who had stopped for the night in their camper van outside our house. It was good to make new friends and the delicious desert was a belated birthday treat for me. One sister commented that the first thing she knew about the dinner guests was coming downstairs in the morning and finding two strangers eating breakfast in our kitchen. It's certainly good to be able to share life with such activity and spontanaity. "That," she resigned, "is one of the things about living in community."


Good friends - Jesus Army Life, Day 118

The other night the brothers' cell group was invaded by a couple of new faces. They just er... weren't brothers. (Okay so we forgot the twiglets and had the cheek to ask a sister, thankfully a good friend, to bring some over). Still, it was a good laugh and the guests joined us for a short while.

Wednesday night groups can be very relaxing times of just coming out of yourself. We asked the question: "What do you need to achive in your life that you would always regret not doing?" Some excellent heart sharing followed.

One of the things that I love about living in community is that I'm spending my life with people I admire, respect and love. Some of them were fellow students at Uni, some of them I got to know after. It is nothing short of a dream to think that these are people I'll be good friends with for the rest of my life. And beyond.

There is a quote which has become something of an urban myth among us...

Sitting with his church at their regular Tuesday night meal, with friends among whom he'd known great times and miseries, the man told his companions: "I'd rather be here with you than with the finest people on earth."

That's kinda how it feels.


Nothing doing - Jesus Army Life, 115

(Today I have a cold - I always get colds when I slow down, must be one of the reasons I keep going.)

Last night I relaxed. I spoke to a few people on the phone. I read The Silmarillion. I chatted to a few friends. I had intended to go out to see one friend in particular, but I was a bit too worn out. It can wait.

We had a group of guys and a group of gals round our place last night. I may have said before, every so often we get together in groups to discuss our lives as disciples. It was just good to know people were in touch, discussing problems and encouraging one another.


Significance - Jesus Army Life, Day 114

It's been an interesting weekend: parties, meetings, meals with friends, spiritual times, significant times, family times, community times.

I feel very thankful for the brotherhood of love there is around me. I needed holding together a bit last night after leading what felt like a difficult gospel meeting. I was really just too tired. A good friend gave me a hug and helped reassure me. Another friend told me this morning how effective they felt the meeting had been. It's curious how we can perceive things differently.

But I was praying this morning, musing over my fast-paced lifestyle and wondering how I could serve God by being less tired. I live fast because I'm not confident in the friendship of those around me.

I have always been conscious to assert my own identity, independent of others. There are reasons for that which are too boring to go into. But I want to relax in the company and love of my friends and find confidence in that...

Hmm, this is too difficult to get my head round right now, but I'm sure you understand. If you know what I mean, leave us a comment. As usual I need the security of thinking an idea through before I embrace it.


Manic moments - Jesus Army Life, Day 110

7.30pm: House family sits round the dinner table, joking about passing various objects to each other: "Can you roll me that tomato?" At one point husband "hovers" a banana over to tonight's dinner guest. Banana falls in wife's soup and soup falls out onto wife's clothing.

1.00am: Yours truly returns home after long drive, exhausted and ready for bed. Having borrowed friend's keys, dopeyhead hangs keys on noticeboard with thank-you note. Keys drop behind cabinet. Yours truly lies on stomach to reach under cabinet and feel for keys. Find keys... can't retrieve arms. Everyone else in bed, still can't pull out my arms. Tired. Minutes pass. Nearly decide to go to sleep in same position in hall way...


Loving life - Jesus Army Life, 107

I'm sitting here with the young daughter of my friends who live with me here in community. She's at that stage where she asks a lot of questions. It's great seeing her grow, filled with wonder and learning how to deal with her innate naughtiness (I better say here that she has a lot of love too or her parents will be cross with me).

Last night we baptised a couple of dear, dear teenage friends. It was a privilege to see them coming out of the water, filled with love and praise for God. They too are entering life with a sense of wonder.

I don't think that sense ever goes away, if you're willing to reject cynicism and accept the good work God is doing in you. Life continues to be beautiful. What more can anyone ask for?

...unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter
the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3


Serious - Jesus Army Life, Day 104

Last night was interesting. The teenage scene was calmer and we had more adults around. I doubt that we've come to the end of the teenage season, but it did seem to mark a shift away from juvenile flipancy towards a greater seriousness about what it means to be a church together.

We've had a young lad staying with us this week. As one of the first teenagers to come round, he wanted a week of training as a disciple. He's changed a lot since his first evening here six months ago, he's a real Christian brother now, not just another insecure kid. I think this also bears prophetic marks of the same seriousness about Jesus which is moving among the younger members among us.


Wow! - Jesus Army Life, Day 103

I got home yesterday to find my room had been completely transformed! My mirror had been fixed on the wall, my bookshelf was full of books, my papers filed, the floor hoovered and not a dirty sock in sight!

What had originally been a request to a friend to reinforce a rickety bed had become a full scale military operation.

It was as if the 'Changing Rooms' team had paid me a visit. Needless to say it totally blessed my socks off, and my dirty shirts, and my messy towels, and my scraggy handkerchiefs, and...

But they guys did give me a discipline! I have to get rid of everything I don't need...

It was a gift of love in the middle of what has been quite a stressful few days.


Nighttime in community - Jesus Army Life, Day 103

I couldn't sleep last night. Probably something to do with all that cottage cheese I had before I went to bed. Now I feel like I'm being held together with safety pins.

Night time in community has a life of its own. An hour won't pass without someone moving around. But you can creep downstairs, turn on the fire and read until you feel sleepy again, or pray quietly (I had a friend who used to think that would definitely put you to sleep). There's something about finding a room that is always so full of activity now peaceful and still. As if the notes of conversation still hang in the air. In the quiet you can sense the presence of God, He was there in that conversation, and that laughter, the memories carry a spiritual ambiance of their own.

And then, of course, there's waiting for morning, when all the community activity begins again, and His steadfast love is renewed with the dawn.


Discipline - Jesus Army Life, Day 101

It was the end of a busy evening when one of our residents began hugging everyone in the lounge. A mixture of confused delight and laughter followed as we realised he'd been given a "discipline" by another member. She had told him not to be so grumpy and had challenged him to show some love to everyone in the room before going to bed.

Needless to say after making everyone else laugh with this sudden display of humble affection he went to bed smiling.

In community-life a discipline will usually be a light challenge given by another Christian to train them in their spiritual life. The rule is that you normaly never ask anyone to do something you wouldn't do yourself. And of course, the recepient can say no, but if he is an obedient disciple who knows that to "submit to one another" is to grow in love, he will grudgingly agree.

It makes for a rich and bizarre life sometimes; but I'm trying hard to think of an example of a discipline that has been given to me, there haven't been that many (now I'm asking for it!)

In recent days we've had to give a far heavier type of discipline. One of our members was asked to leave the community house. We'll stay in touch but have suggested he go to another church for a short while, and he has moved to a nearby 'community' while he gets himself sorted. Without going into detail he fell foul of some "works of the flesh." We spoke together about this several times over as many weeks but unfortunately he continued to go his own way. I think it is fair to say he is very much loved by all of us and that is part of the reason we can't allow him to continue to sin in ignorance.

I'll finish with a short note about last night, when some of us underwent a quite different, more pleasant type of suffering. We were treated to a home made vindaloo by a famed member who lives outside the community. For any unfamiliar with the term, "vindaloo" is a popular spicy meal in the UK, originally from Goa, which uses the world's hottest chillies for a very intense "burn your guts out" experience. And very nice it was too. But for those who decided to eat the hottest vindaloo on the table (not me) it took some real... discipline.


Another busy weekend - Jesus Army Life, Day 96

Another busy weekend, but all I want to comment on is one part of it. The bit where we did nothing but sit around in the lounge enjoying the autumnal atmosphere outside and a sense of togetherness within.

Every chair in the lounge was taken up with resident family and friends chatting quietly, snoozing, reading, the occasional mass of teenage war-tribe marching through the room. It was a very pleasant time and all too rare in this season of activity, but to those who are finding White Stone to be 'home' it spoke mellow volumes of the value of this Kingdom-oasis we have come to know.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

Matthew 13:45-46


The chavs have arrived - Jesus Army Life, Day 93

We were overrun with teenagers at our 'friendship meal' last night. About 20 of them...

And, five of them were definately of the chav variety, which makes for a good Kingdom mix - goths and chavs are supposed to hate each other.

It was chaos! but mostly good. One lass committed her life to Jesus, a few others were sorting out some major life issues.

Can you have major life issues when you're a teenager? Yes. If your parents have just thrown you out or you're facing several years in prison, or if you're a single-mum who's just broken her nose...


Empty Chairs - Jesus Army Life, Day 91

Last night we prayed over empty chairs in our dining room.

The event was our Agape meal. That's where the committed core of the household come together to renew their covenant vows.

We are conscious that while there is a healthy group of covenant members living at the community house, the number of covenanted members we have living in their own homes is relatively small.

We do have some very committed non-resident White Stoners, they help minister in meetings, bring life and joy to the household, evangelise, provide practically in terms of transport and finance, ground us in reality and support the vision. However, perhaps of necessity, much of the work in this growing church is taken on by those who live full-time in community. We need to expand our base.

So, there we were, praying over the empty chairs at our dinner table; asking God to provide what we cannot create.

It was a symbolic moment and one I look forward to coming into fruition.


Love is... - Jesus Army Life, Day 90

A good friend of mine is stopping over for a few days. He lived in community for over a year before, now he's carefully testing the waters again.

Worryingly he'll be stopping in my room.

The problem is I currently share my space with a very lovable scruff, lovable yes, but I need to major on the scruff part!

Once I would nag my companion to tidy his stuff daily, but then I visited a respected brother's room at another community house. He had to put up with much, much worse, so I decided to stop nagging and start loving.

The situation has improved over time, but when it's bad, it's bad! Another Christian brother just recently challenged my room mate to tidy the room while my friend is here as 'a gift of love' to him. But I'm not holding my breath.

It would be a great way to show love. I'd certainly appreciate it if the young scally went out of his way to welcome my mate and make him feel comfortable. Tidying up his dirty clothes would also show a bit of love to the people who have to wash them all the time! Getting three weeks worth of dirty washing in one go is not very motivating, not to mention the hygiene!

But lovable as my young friend may be, we'll just have to see how willing he is to give love in return...


Mundane Monday - Jesus Army Life, Day 89

Life has felt pretty mundane recently. And that's just the biggest lie ever!

Life is far from mundane, and there's so much going on in my life I can't understand why I'd feel that way...

Last night, at church, I was talking to a man who is successfully weaning himself off a heroin addiction. Should he get clean, he has everything to live for. Life feels worthwhile if you can just help someone like that even a little bit along the way. I mean what else is there to live for but loving others?

So why does life feel so mundane? I'm not sure. Things came home to me most when a young disciple of mine, someone I love, found himself in serious trouble. In bed that night, I couldn't help feeling that things were almost too tedious to bear! Now surely that's the wrong response. I guess I just felt stressed.

I want to enjoy life, and there is a huge amount to enjoy... perhaps... well... is knowing the need to keep giving out in love causing a war within myself?... a war with my 'self?' all because I want some 'me' time? I literally don't have any other life and I don't want any other distraction than the Kingdom of God. I truly enjoy the life I lead. How, at the same time, can I feel so out of kilter?


Photo essay - Jesus Army Life, Day 84

I asked one of the teenagers to do a photo project about 'White Stone' Christian Community. Here are some of the pictures she took...

Everyone loves music and there's always a guitar within easy reach. Some of the younger guys who come round are learning the guitar now. For them there's a slow transition taking place from the darkness of some rock music to the inspiration of worship songs. The more mature guitarists can sing beautifully, especially when they sing melodically under the influence of the Spirit.

The brothers wash up after the Wednesday night simplicity meal: soup and bread. Simplicity because we're trying to save money to fund our Jesus Centre projects, which help to bring hope to drug addicts, the homeless, prostitutes, the rejected, the battered, people with a chaotic lifestyle.

White Stone house seems to have been developed in the 1950s. It must be at once impressive and archaic to some of the younger guys who come round, but we needed a big enough place to house the twelve residential members living there.

Our visitor's book is a framed white sheet in the entrance hall. Probably only two thirds of regular visitors have signed the board. It's a big family.

The teenagers have adopted 'Jé.hu' as their 'Mystery Machine' van. It's covered with a red cross livery and is unashamedly a Jesus Army vehicle. They get a kick out of winding down the windows, waving and calling to people, "Jesus loves you!" as they pass. The window of the car was smashed the other night.

One of our photographer's friends, nicknamed 'Tender'. All the friends are discovering the life of the Holy Spirit who is in turn helping them to find love, confidence and real identity in a screwed up world.


An account - Jesus Army Life, Day 83

Faithful friends: Jim Areas of my life to sort out:

Knowing God more
Maturity in shepherding/mentoring
The single life?
Family relationships
Fulfilment at work

Things to be thankful for:

Faithful friends and family
Living growing church
Holy Spirit life
The single life
Gaining maturity
Freedom and joy


Entering His rest - Jesus Army Life, Day 82

So the big meeting took place and yesterday life was back to normal. It felt like a breath of fresh air. And I couldn't help a wry smile as I thought about my day: Morning church meeting, household leaders' meeting, drop-in volunteers' meeting, evening gospel meeting. Normal life? Pah! Day of rest? Hmmmm!

But it's not these events that trouble me, it's the relationship fall outs, the intimidation of local yobs, the drug abuse, the lies and emotional manipulation of false friendships, the promiscuity. Issues effecting my life and the lives of those I love. The evil one will not have his way.

Overall these troubles there is glory, I have confidence in the blessing of a God who will not sleep as he watches over this family with blessing.

I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?
My help comes from Yahweh, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Yahweh watches over you - Yahweh is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
Yahweh will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life;
Yahweh will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121


God at work - Jesus Army Life, 78

Boy, life is moving fast! I've been preparing videos for an event in Sheffield, coming up this Saturday. We were asked to put together four pieces with about two week's notice so things have been pretty manic.

At White Stone we've been praying and fasting in various ways over the last month. The focus has been making disciples. So last Sunday it was good to baptise three Christians from very different backgrounds and there are a few more baptisms to come too. God is at work. There have also been some difficulties for a few much-loved disciples. If you imagine you know who I'm talking about, chances are there are several others who you hadn't realised were struggling too... But I think the Spirit of God is at work here as well. God recently helped us to understand that we have to protect our relationships and make sure they are strong. Strong friendships help the weak feel secure. It is a command we dare not ignore. We are a family together, and seeing friends among us struggling effects everyone. As a result prayer has become more urgent, we feel more bonded, and spiritual life ripples out to those on the fringes.

So we are seeing breakthrough in all sorts of ways. I can't go in to detail, there is too much to say, but I am conscious that God's blessing is with us. For all the difficulties we are knowing the beauty of life together and rejoicing that we can know such life.


The New Monasticism - Christianity Today Magazine

I guess I should mention this too. Christianity Today recently wrote a couple of articles relating to community living: The New Monasticism - Christianity Today Magazine and Remonking the Church - Christianity Today Magazine

blogs4God | A semi-definitive list of Christians who blog.

Must mention blogs4God | A semi-definitive list of Christians who blog., a great guide for finding holy bloggers.

Quality investment - Jesus Army Life, 69

Time is moving swiftly at the moment. I woke up early this morning thinking about God and all the things I had to do. We have a young homeless chap staying with us for a few nights. I'm trying to help sort him out for work and accomodation, God willing. Later, I woke him up too with a list of things he needs to accomplish today.

Last night he came with me to help me interview a friend on video (part of my work). He's certainly a canny lad and someone I hope I'll know for many years to come.

At the moment it feels like life is moving very quickly. I have so many things to organise and friends to look out for, I'm learning to involve some friends in the things I'm doing. Eternity will be worth nothing if it isn't at least filled with snatches of time given to others, a quality investment into the relationships that matter.

Remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power. Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and frustrations and disappointments.

Abraham Joshua Heschel


Easing into Sunday morning - Jesus Army Life Day 67

Well, here I am sitting here eating a plate of breakfast beans, wondering what the day's going to hold. I've prayed already (I could hardly not, considering I led a meeting on prayer last night). Here at the community house there are a few people up and about. A couple have gone down to volunteer at the Jesus Centre Drop-In, another is just leaving on his bicycle now, he has to set up the sound equipment for the morning church meeting. I've only had one chat so far this morning, with a 'domestic sister' about how her work is going, she had got up to have a 'shepherding breakfast' with a church elder, just to talk about the challenges she's facing, I think the elder in question may have overslept. Oh, hang on, I can hear his voice now...

I'm waiting for the three young lads we've got staying this weekend to get up. There's bound to be some chaos once they do. And I'm teasing myself with the question: Do I get them up early in an attempt to avoid the madness: 'late for church', 'need the bathroom', 'don't feel like going to worship...' etc. or do I let them learn from their mistakes (do they ever?) I'll probably compromise and give them an hour to get ready.

I'm expecting to advertise the multicultural group this morning. I'm not sure what else to expect from the day... a sense of God's spirit this morning, a brotherhood time this afternoon, evangelism in the evening. Whatever happens I want to be ready, within me my spirit feels up for it and I want to be walking with God throughout today... after all I'm a soldier in the modern Jesus army.


Sharing Heaven - Jesus Army Life, Day 64

A useful time last night. We visited this guy I haven't seen for years, an African brother my friend had met and kept in touch with. He was very hospitable and we talked for a good while.

Normally I use Wednesday evenings to go to see my mates by myself, but I discovered that going out with another Christian friend is much, much better. Why? Because you take the Kingdom of Heaven with you. (Where two or three are gathered together in my name... Matthew 18:20)

When you're living in an intentional Christian community, living for a cause becomes inevitable. It's all about creating a slice of Heaven. And you'll either find a reason for continuing in that cause or you give up. You'll carry that sense of cause with you wherever you go. It lives within you and becomes your culture, your lifestyle, your focus; imperfect, but there all the same. By visiting someone who does not know that same "community experience" you can share a greater blessing. It is like the meeting of two worlds. You share something of your world with that person, and they share their life and their experience with you.

Coming home from that brother's house I felt truly refreshed. It had been good to share Heaven together as we approached it from our different angles. Not that we talked about spiritual things a great deal, but we prayed together at the end and touched hearts. A far better experience than just going round your mates to shut yourself off from the world around you. I felt refreshed by that brother, that was his blessing to me, we had engaed in love rather than fleeing from it.

Global Rich List

This deserves some attention. Find out how rich you really are in comparison to the rest of the world. It makes you think... Global Rich List


Heaven advancing - Jesus Army Life, Day 63

Quick post tonight. I'm off to visit some friends with another guy from the house, should be a good evening.

On Monday I went to a Poetry Evening in Oxford, the experience was delicious. (As delicious as the Leffe Brune I tasted there for the first time too. I'm an instant fan.)

Last night we had Agape. A time of rich prayer. We've reached a point where together we touch many lives and we want to see the work of God in each one as the Kingdom of Heaven advances!


A Day full of lives - Jesus Army life, Day 61

A day full of lives yesterday. In fact it's been a busy weekend... On Saturday we went to Nottingham to support the church in that city. It was a good time to make friends with one of the guys we met on our recent evangelism campaign. I like him, there is an innocent nature about the man and hopefully we'll see him again soon. Many of the teenagers were there too, it definitely feels like we are a growing family.

Still, if Saturday was full of activity, Sunday was more so...

We had a house-family breakfast which focused on prayer rather than sharing on a heart-searching issue. It gave the event a different feel but the prayer was motivated by the question: "Do you care?" I think we responded in the only real way we could.

During the morning church meeting a rival gang of teenagers turned up. Any tension was quickly dispelled when a young disciple invited them to White Stone for lunch. He moved in love and it worked, credit to him. So we had more young people for the afternoon than usual! But I missed half the sermon because of all the teenage activity (someone decided to get their lip pierced in the car park) and ended up having an extended 'quick word' with a young lass about not flirting. Not the wisest thing to do.

Later, after helping a friend move some of her boxes (she's moving out this week, more on that another time...) and chatting to our domestic manager about a few home issues, I typed up some notes for a friend who is thinking about our church covenant. He's asking some important questions about what he believes which is good. I know I went through a similar questioning process when I joined this church so it will be interesting to see what conclusion he comes to.

At the evening meeting I sat down at a table with a mate who has such a chummy nature, you feel like you're old friends, but I didn't stay long, I was roped into some amateur dramatics, and then I was called outside... I found a young lad in a crisis. He was crying because someone had pulled a knife on him earlier in the day . I don't know if it was the right thing to do, but I immediately called over the lad I knew was responsible. This second teenager hadn't threatened the boy himself but had involved some of his nastier friends in their dispute. I wanted to face him up to his trouble making. The instigator was repentant but I don't know how deeply. He himself is homeless and trying to cope with a number of problems. Hopefully the result will be there won't be any more trouble, but it did little to comfort the first chap. I found a little later still crying, something to pray about I guess.

I actually ended up praying for the second teenager instead. He was cold turkeying from alcohol withdrawal so I prayed for him and sorted him out some blankets for sleeping on the streets that night. I was frustrated because I felt powerless to do any more for him. He came back to our house for a meal before we dropped him off in town. At least he's visiting a drugs and alcohol centre today for help. He is due to get a place, but there have been complications. I've since spoken to our house-leader about the situation and we're going to see if he'd like to stay with us until his accommodation is sorted.

I didn't mention that I met the young woman in trouble whom I wrote about the other day. It was the first time I'd met her so I didn't let on that I knew what she'd been through. The latest news is that things seem to have cooled off for her.

At ten o' clock that evening, after an enjoyable supper, I gave the brother of a White Stone resident a lift back to Rugby. It meant I didn't get back till an hour later when everyone had gone to bed. Everyone that is except one friend who I found sobbing downstairs. Knowing they were going though a fairly private issue there was not much I could do. I made a drink for this very dear friend, offered some reassurance and encouragement and make my way to bed. I know this friend will find Jesus in the midst of distress. One of the strange lessons of Jesus Army life is knowing when to help people and when to let them work things out for themselves.


Already lost - Jesus Army Life, Day 58

Over 30 people here for dinner last night, including a couple of guys we'd met on the campaign. Thankfully, the house wasn't over run. Either we or the teenagers are learning to cope with all the excitement.

It was a good evening. After a short talk and a song for grace I spent most of the time with a Tanzanian man we'd met. Together we ate and chatted about nothing in particular, he offered to help with the washing up and then wiped down the surfaces and then swept the floors. We went out to watch the bonfire the teenagers had created. He told me he wished he'd known about this place when he'd first arrived in Coventry. He spoke of the relief he felt as we all worshipped together. I think it was the family atmosphere he was most appreciative of, though I know he's been looking for a way back to God.

Today he texted me apologetically. He'd been offered a job in London. It's great news for him, he really needs the work. But for me, it was disappointing to be separated from a new friend so quickly.

Tonight I went to the prayer meeting. A refreshing time in itself, but one of my prayers was for my new friend, that somehow he'd end up working closer to home.


Friendships for heaven - Jesus Army Life, Day 57

Last night was a bit of a non eventful.

I'd planned to go out to meet a Turkish guy with a friend who speaks the language but the friend had called to cancel. Plan B was to catch up with some other people I know, but one by one each prospect fell through.

I ended up in the prayer-shed mulling over with God some issues facing one of our young disciples and remembering how much of an attractive harlot the world really is.

I did however receive a phone call from a man I met during our campaign. We're going to meet tonight. He's a very decent guy with a very sad tale to tell. I'm hoping he sees the beauty of the Kingdom of God and falls in love with it, but hope is nothing without faith. So I'm trusting myself to the Spirit's work with faith and love. It's good to build friendships for heaven.

Some progress on yesterday's issue but nothing substantial yet.


Helping in a crisis - Jesus Army Life, Day 56

A friend of mine is in touch with someone who has been treated in the worst possible way by her ex. My friend is very stressed about it and the woman is most likely living in fear for her life. Of course the police need to be involved, however, it's not always easy persuading a victim of crime to take that route. In this case we don't know the people involved but we trying to help. I can't go into details.

As a bystander the worst feeling about this kind of situation is the powerlessness to help. You want to intervene, but you cannot, not without permission. You can give information, you can counsel and support but without taking direct action what more can you do? I wonder how many times I have to be a bystander in this kind of situation before I take a different perspective? This isn't the first time I've been privy to another's suffering.

The only suitable response is to lay your life down for the person in need.

It's worth knowing the police don't need a victim's cooperation to prosecute if there's enough evidence. And I've heard that sometimes the police will receive useful information from victims but respect a wish not to press charges simply because the information alone alerts the police to a dangerous individual. But I'm not sure about this last point.

Is prayer any use? Yes, though the effect is unknown. I've been praying for breakthrough in this situation.


'Regionals' - Jesus Army Life, Day 55

Last night we had a regional leaders meeting. Not boring! Well, church governance might be for others but for me it's great stuff. Picture of me in the absence of anything better...Someone pointed out recently that the reason I like this governance type thing is because I'm a bloke. I get my kick out of being involved in decision making. The woman who related this to me suggested that it's not the same for the female variety, which I don't really understand, but if anyone can explain it to me then that will be fine.

What did we talk about? Families in the church, authority, other ongoing stuff.

The families bit was interesting because we looked at how families are the normal units of committed relationship, but because as a church we are strong on committed relationships that can subvert the family unit. It can also add a lot of support for the family in the absence of the nearby extended family today, but with the negative aspect in mind we want to begin thinking about how we can encourage families more.

The authority stuff was useful too. We focused on how people who are happy to submit to authority can often be problematic at a later stage because they usually submit out of their own strength and sense of virtue whereas a Christian needs to submit to authority out of love for God. I think a lot of the leaders recognised themselves in this. It was quite a touching time.


Glad to be bonded to you? - Jesus Army Life, Day 54

Here I am, sneezing away because I've just moved offices and there is dust everywhere! What has that got to do with living in a Christian community? Well, I work for my church so I kinda take community life to work with me. But if I did so before, I do so now more than ever: from today I'm sharing an office with the same guy who introduced me to this community church, the same chap who heads up the community house we all started together, he's also my closest friend. Can you get any closer in community? Well, thank goodness I'm not married to the fella! (Should I mention that he asked me??... he was at the time alluding to a covenant of fellowship... erm... dig hole, dig hole.)

So, we're working together, traveling together, living together, building church together. You can probably count the days till our first argument, but we've been friends for eleven years. They say love is stronger than death. Let's hope so.


Fishers of men - Jesus Army Life, Day 51

We've had a good campaign so far. Most importantly we have made a lot of new friends, people I know I'll see around town and stop to talk to and some who will want to come along to church.

Campaign fatigue has set in though. I guess that is part of the battle. You won't know that talking to people all day is tiring until you try it! Still, we've had some successful marches, public singing and prayer times without an ounce of hassle from the authorities.

I could tell you some heart rendering stories, such as that of the man who gave up his job and survived on benefits to look after his sick wife and when she died he found himself evicted from his home or that of a young man who hasn't worked for two years after being involved in a car accident. Real lives, real challenges, may there also be some real results.

It's been good getting to know more of the goths and chavs. Many hearts of gold with twice as thick skin.

The team effort has been excellent. Strong faith has helped us this far. Continuous faith is necessary to see God move in many of these people's lives.


Spiritualised activity, Jesus Army Life - Day 50

Well, there's a lot to say and not much time to say it.

We've embarked on our evangelism bus tour. It's full of action with marches, door knocking and singing times. 'Commuter evangelism' is certainly fear-breaking: you ride about on a bus or train witnessing to the passengers. As I said, full of action. We'll be doing this for the next three days so forgive me if I don't have time to blog. I will try though...

Also, at White Stone, we're beginning a month of prayer and fasting. We want to see a shift in terms of people we know becoming disciples, so we're putting our efforts into that.

There's a lot of inspiration around at the moment.


Needed Restoration - Jesus Army Life, Day 48

It's been an interesting weekend. There's been lots of good stuff and some heart rendering moments too.

The highlight of the weekend was when the group of teenagers we brought with us became drunk in the Holy Spirit. One of them was so filled with the life and love of God he couldn't stop laughing and was running around the event field. There was quite a lot of Holy Spirit stuff happening all over the place, and some of our guys are now considering baptism.

For me personally it was a chance to get back in touch with God again after feeling very disconnected for several days. For myself and many others Saturday and Sunday were times of repentance and restoration. I'd love to speak in detail about the weekend but I always miss so much through working on the video desk. There was a special focus on simple worship which touched a lot of people and caused many to reassess their standing before God. I think, as a church, the Jesus Army may have reached an important turning point.

Out of respect for others' privacy I won't write about the disappointments now; perhaps another time would be best. I feel we're facing a time of testing in the run up to the campaign (which starts tomorrow). It's especially important that there's some reconciliation between several members of White Stone. Our unity is our strength and it brings joy to God.


Jesus Army Life, Day 45: Multi-not

I can't believe I did it again! Same scenario, checking email last thing at night, followed by game till 1pm. Grrrr. Don't I know I need my sleep? It wouldn't be so bad but I find it impossible to sleep-in in the mornings too! Sheeesh Tschaka, get a grip!

Last night's multicultural group was pleasant, except it wasn't very err... multicultural. Out of ten of us I would say there were four non-English faces there. The lack of ethnic mix was symptomatic of the problem we are trying to address. I'm going to have to put in a bit of work between now and the next one in a month's time.

I appreciated the support of the brothers and sisters there however, and I as I said, we had a good time. Let's call it a bit of a trial run.

Anyway, it would be a crime to write this blog without mentioning Winning Weekend, one of the three biggest gatherings the Jesus Army hold each year. It's four days long and started last night. One of the brothers took a bus load of teenagers over for the first session yesterday and we're all there today. It's a great time of hearing God's word, finding refreshing and catching up with friends, and a very useful introduction to Jesus Army life. If you know me, come and say hello. I'll probably be hovering somewhere near the Video desk.

And just a quick shout out to the Dad of one of the sisters who lives here. He visits us quite often and this morning I prayed for his knee which is causing him trouble. So, I'm expecting results!


Jesus Army Life, Day 44: oops!

I'm making friends with one of the teenagers. He doesn't really trust anyone and talks about violence all the time. Beneath the brooding exterior is a young man who wants to be trusted and counted as worthwhile. It could be a long process but hopefully in sharing quality times with him we might learn to value each other more.

Last night I didn't go to sleep till after 1am. Foolish I know. I just wanted to check my email because I was expecting a reply and there I was, an hour later, playing a computer game. I don't begrudge the time I spent. After the busy evenings I often find I want some me-time, not to be selfish but simply to wind down before I go to bed. Hopefully, I'll be ok, I've got some hard graft rigging video equipment today, a multicultural group tonight and a busy weekend ahead.


Jesus Army Life, Day 43: I had a friend...

I just found out a friend of mine is getting married. Understand, when I say "friend", most of my close friends will smile wisely, waiting for me to utter the word "she" and then burst out laughing. Apparently, I'm that transparent.

Anyway this "friend" used to be a dear 'friend' of mine. We dated for a short while and I felt, well, privileged to know someone as smart and beautiful as she was. We never got too far though, I was determined to increase in my faith in Jesus, she wasn't interested, or at least that's what she said. I guess I felt she wasn't too interested in me either. We fell out and things cooled off. A short while later I moved to another town to move into community and we lost contact.

It's strange when you hear about things like this. There's often a 'what if...' question inside begging to be asked, even if you don't want to admit it. And, with the definite choice of community life, there's a temptation to blame the route life has taken on the radical choice you made. It feels like a sharp blade in your heart or something torn out as you sense the whisper of regret within. But life is never that simple and you make your choices with purpose in the full knowledge that times like this will come.

I'm glad she's found someone special and I'm glad I've made the choices I have, and I still hope she gets close to Jesus.


Jesus Army Life, Day 42: My mate says....

Got my mate here, one of the young lads. He's going to do a bit for my blog tonight. (None of the others are around, but I think he likes being here...)

White Stone is a great place to find your spirit. And there's great company. When I first came round I thought, okay this is scary. Then one of the brothers told me something that I hadn't told no one, about the way I was feeling. He offered me some prayer. After 5 minutes I decided okay... and four months on I'm doing really well as a Christian. I particularly get on well with one of the brothers, especially during the last month, he's a good laugh and a great person to be around; a really good brother.

Last week was my first visit to another community house: Kings House. It was bigger than I expected it to be. Like White Stone it's in a really quiet area. The things I liked there was the company and the drumming room!

Back to me... just to let you know that Agape here was particularly good last night. It was just really hearty stuff. We're also preparing for an evangelistic campaign next week. We'll be taking a tour bus round the local area and challenging one another to break a few fears in sharing the gospel etc. It should be good.

Other recent news I could mention is the return of one of the families from a few days away, and how a sister has taken a trip to France to see a friend get married, but I think I'll leave my thoughts about these events till a more reflective time.