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!