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