They touched our soul - Jesus Army Life - Day 337

Last night it was Agape, but it was unusual: We spent the majority of the time talking about the various disciples who are around at the moment, over 30 in all. And then after we shared the covenant meal of bread and wine we prayed for them.

It wasn't a classic Agape filled with spiritual song and the word of God, but it touched the heart of who we are as a household and a people together. Each life mentioned is part of the soul of our church. We care for them all, we spend our love on them, invest time in them, watch them fall and rise, and long for them to grow closer to God.


Surprised by far off thoughts - Jesus Army Life, Day 335

After being away traipsing through the hills (traipsing? ha! trudging through the tetons of titanic torture) I began to miss some things about community. Not surprisingly you may think... but it wasn't the hot meals or comfortable bed. It was other things; things like the companionship of heart-covenanted members, the various activities of the week, the peace of being at the centre of God's will (or as close as this flesh-bag can usually get), the vested interest in seeing young disciples advance. Those things floated to the top of my heart as crucial to my sense of satisfaction.

And I was surprisingly comforted by those treasured thoughts.


The things we've neglected to do - Jesus Army Life, Day 329

Things I've neglected to mention that have happened in community recently...

The two visiting ministers from Pakistan, this year's barbecue, recent thefts, Satan's attack on various disciples, the recent peace among teenagers, the enthusiastic JGeneration meeting and the South African whooping (is it called helele?), early morning prayer, theological table conversations with a 14 year old, chicken pox, inviting the needy to our table, misplaced affection, malfunctioning loos and other pipe work, the greatest prayer shed in the world, being late for work...

The topics go on and on. I'll probably won't get a chance to write on all of them, some of them I don't want to. But I hope it gets you intrigued... he he, perhaps you'll come and stay for a week and find out more...

I'll write again in a week's time... bye!


Table conversation - Jesus Army Life, Day whatever

We actually managed to have some decent table conversation with the teenage lads yesterday. It felt like such a victory! Sure, I still had to tell them "that's not loving" or "that's out of order" occasionally but we actually had constructive chats where we showed some concern for each other.

You cannot imagine what a breakthrough this is!!!


Partaking together - Jesus Army Life, Day 323

As we shared the cup from the eucharist last night, a quiet note of pain sang through me. There are many I long to share that cup with who have never chosen to partake and there are some with whom we once shared the cup who no longer wish to do so. It was the actual sharing in Christ's blood which I was thinking of. I can't help but be selfish and want some of those I love to be with me in this... as close as possible. But,
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17


Aiming for purity - Jesus Army Life, Day 322

I've been thinking about purity lately. What exactly is it? The question was prompted when I was challenging one of the younger sisters, an unashamedly flirtatious teenager, to consider purity. Her response was: "What is purity?"

I scrabbled together an answer, but to be honest I was a bit flummoxed. It's not that I don't know what purity is, it's... it's, well it's sort of being clean isn't it? The real problem is that there's not a lot you can relate purity to in this modern age. You can define it by what it is not: it's about preferring to keep your inner life clean rather than let it be ruined by the filfth of the world. But that's a bit vague and, being honest, it sounds a somewhat boring - keeping yourself clean and tidy has never been my idea of fun.

A quick search on the internet doesn't help much either - lots of reference to sex, which is certainly part of the picture but it's not the whole story.

I suppose you could define purity as a utility. Something useful to help you progress with your spiritual life (thoughts of being smelted in a furnace spring to mind), but I always thought of purity as an ideal in itself. Are we losing our sense of virtue and of what is praiseworthy in our society today?

"What is purity?"

The most I can figure out is that purity is something precious. It speaks of peace in the soul, it undergirds our sense of commitment to higher values. It's about not being willing to compromise your heart for something that will waste it. And it is a doorway into the spiritual life... "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5) Purity is akin to integrity I suppose, but where integrity requires you to keep to the truth you already hold dear, purity appeals to your character, it calls you to go for something transcendent. There is seemingly no end to the virtue of purity and that is why it seems so unrealistic in today's "please yourself" social order.

Aiming for purity is best done by degrees: watching what words you say, dealing with the thoughts you think, acquiring a sense of what is right in your heart, holding onto the good, treasuring your valued friends, remembering the most precious moments, submitting your actions to God. Thoughts of purity allied with strength inspires my imagination: immediately I'm in a world of noble warriors and proud queens, dignified friendship and hopeful youth. It's not the world I grew up in, it's not a place I or that teenager know now, but it's a dream that hopefully won't vanish too quickly.


Too true

Sing hallelujah for the C of E karaoke machine - Comment - Times Online:

"Talk to people under 50 and they all, by and large, have a religion: a consistent, recognisable set of beliefs. It's just that it doesn't have a name yet. It usually consists of a selection of the following: doing yoga; believing in reincarnation and karma, but also heaven, so long as Nan and your dogs are there, too; watching Carols from King's at Christmas; using recycled loo roll; intending to read the Koran at some point; knowing quite a lot of the score of Jesus Christ Superstar; a vague affinity with dolphins; trying not to use the word 'spaz' any more; reading The Road Less Travelled; buying joss-sticks; considering colonic irrigation and/or fasting; looking for symbols of the rose on churches since reading The Da Vinci Code; buying make-up that is not tested on animals (apart from Touche Eclat, because Boots Naturals just don't do an equivalent); getting a bicycle; buying Fairtrade; occasionally wishing you were Jewish; never going to McDonald's; sponsoring a child in the Third World; listening to The Best of Cat Stevens; liking Shaker-style quilts; and not believing in a man up there with a white beard, but definitely believing that there's some kind of global conscience, yeah. "

Refreshing - Jesus Army Life, Day 321

It was a packed weekend as usual. The household put on a music show for the church at Live at the Well on Friday. And then there was a wedding for a loveable couple the following day. But we were slightly depleted at our evening meeting - several regulars were not there, otherwise we would have easily have made our target of 'more than 24'. Still, if we took an average for the whole year so far, the barbecue this weekend would easily cover over this blip on the chart. Last year we had about 130 people. Wanna come?

On Sunday I decided to act prophetically and bought the house family some melons. I said that I wanted to 'refresh' the hearts of the saints through an act of love and encouraged others to do likewise. Other actions followed, feet were cooled with basins of water, chocolates and 'delights' (of the Turkish variety) were brought from people's rooms. There was a lot of laughter especially from myself when a brother commented that the Western Isles were the most beautiful place he'd been to on earth. He admitted then that he hadn't been to a lot of places and a sister shot back: "Yes, and one of them is Liverpool!" (his home town). I laughed uncontrollably.

Do note the insinuation that Liverpool is less than lovely is only hearsay. I've never been there, but I do intend to go there one day... perhaps for a honeymoon or something like that.

One of the younger sisters has been going round wearing a t-shirt with the words Style 3 wannabe (Style 3 is a term we use for church members who live in community). She's too young for community at the moment, but she's gaining a good reputation for herself, with lots of loving selfless acts. I heard it said of her yesterday that she wants to go for complete commitment to our radical church lifestyle (Covenant, Community, Celibacy) unless God tells her otherwise. That really is refreshing. So often you hear Christians approach this the other way round: 'I'm not going to do that because God hasn't called me'. May God guide her and keep her on her path.


Working together - Jesus Army Life, Day 318

Last night the entire household (including the extras who came for the friendship meal) worked in our garden to prepare it for the upcoming barbecue. There's something incredibly edifying about working together. For a moment people are bound with a sense of unity, if for just a moment...

I have often thought that if I needed to make a set of people into a team I'd put them on a sailing boat together. That kind of situation means you have to trust each other and work as a unit. You learn to get on

But these things aren't the same as living in community... community is more. It's a laying your life down for your brother - permanently. And there you find real unity.

Nonetheless, last night it was enjoyable, working together in the evening sun.


Needing a dad - Jesus Army Life, Day 317

I got up at 6:30am this morning (not unusual) and cycled across town to another community house. I'd arranged to walk into work with one of the senior elders of our church. Something I hope to do on a fortnightly basis.

It's a response to an encouragement by a pastor from another church. He's the father of one of our members and was highlighting the need for young leaders in our household to be learning from 'older' warriors of the faith. We're a fairly young household so there's not much opportunity to do that (though I do enjoy sitting at the feet of the one seasoned elder we have).

It was good just to "offload"... I hope he appreciated it too. As new leaders of a busy household we hold so many concerns and encounter so many situations where we don't know exactly the right answer, it can be quite a daunting situation. So many moments go by where I think: "I don't know what to do here!" And somehow you just have to go for what you think is best and learn the lessons afterwards.

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers...
1 Corinthians 4:15

While cycling over I met one of the young lads I am mentoring. We walked and talked for a bit. I hope I can do right by him. I hope I can point him to Christ as others have pointed me.

There are so many men without fathers out there...


Times of intimacy - Jesus Army Life, Day 315

The whole community was round the table last night. It seemed ages since we had last been together just by ourselves - even last night we had a few guests with us. There's been so much going on, some of it in the various activities of the church, and personal situations have kept some of us away, but distracting activity has been going on simply in our hearts and has meant that we were absent even though present at the table.

I've been musing on the importance of intimacy lately. There can be intimacy round the dinner table, even if shared between five or six or even twelve hearts. Guests can be welcomed into that intimacy too, it need not be exclusive, but it is important to value and protect that intimacy: to share hearts and not ride roughshod over what others highly regard. With intimacy comes commitment, in fact you cannot often have intimacy unless there is a sense of commitment. It is a precious thing.

But I'm thinking also about how others can be invited into that intimacy safely. I probably won't find an answer. Intimacy is about sharing, and nothing can truly create that intimacy if one party is not willing to share. Yet there must be a way... something to ponder on I guess. I wonder how Jesus approached the issue. There were times when he deliberately went to private places with his closest men and there were times when that intimacy was invaded by others who wanted to be a part of his life.


Va va voom

Hooray! We have our new 7 seater car back. No more nightmare transport situations... hopefully.

Finding freedom - Jesus Army Life, Day 314

We baptised a lovely fella last night. He's got a long way to go but shows a lot of promise.

At supper, after the meeting, we prayed for him and spoke words of prophecy for him. It was unusual because the Sunday supper is usually a time to relax, but as the household leader pointed out, "Are we as happy to be eating spaghetti on toast as we are to be praying? Is our spiritual life as easy as our natural life?" It's a worthwhile question. We need to keep challenging our natural ways, not so we become intensely spiritual, but so that we open up channels to freely move in the life of God.

I've been getting a lot of questions about homosexuality lately, because a few of the people we have round are working through these issues. It's good to take a hard look at these questions, especially in an environment of acceptance where God is the main thing and sexuality comes a long way down the list (though it's obviously important to each individual). I've always found Martin Hallett a useful reference point in this area.

There's so much that could be said on this issue. One of the things I think our church offers is a social atmosphere of respect, especially along sexual boundaries; brothers associate with brothers, sisters with sisters - love for one another is key, and this helps people find themselves in a fellowship free from sexual pressure.


Okay it's true, community is hell, sometimes - Jesus Army Life, Day 311

One of the things I've realised about community life is that if you share it with people who really don't want community (regardless of whether they live in the community or not) it becomes absolute hell.

Consider how many would not want to share their home with strangers in the first place - many have trouble sharing it with those they love. Sharing your home with those who simply don't want to love you, when you're doing your best to love them, is somewhat exhausting, not to mention entirely and completely, mindboglingly crazy.

This really can apply to those who live outside the community too. People can come round for all sorts of reasons other than Jesus; and where there is disregard for everything you as a people hold dear it is a nightmare. The atmosphere will be tense, people are holding their breath just waiting for the moment to pass, leaders are at their wit's end... again.

I'm not saying you have to be into Jesus to come round, many aren't and that's okay. But it does help if you appreciate that the community exists for a particular purpose. Christians believe that God's grace is available to everyone, the good and the evil. It's when you deliberately don't want to receive that grace that there's a problem. We, in community, can't really offer anything else.

In other words if you do live in community (as one non-community sage pointed out to me last night) you're going to get your heart broken.

And here's the rub: as a Christian you have to be willing to throw yourself into that situation again and again, because you have to be willing to trust that Christ will work in people. And of course he does. If I've started this blog entry somewhat negatively then let me end positively and say that we've seen some beautiful people walk through our doors and leave with even more beautiful hearts, quickened by the grace of God.


Bakeaway - Jesus Army Life, Day 310

There's been a fair amount of joking about brothers liking flowers - with the mocking coming from various sisters no less. I've kept out of this one. Give me a cathedralesque tree to marvel at anyday. I'd always choose a walk through a forest over a hike across the hills, but this is community, we have to accept all shades of opinion, including those of er... tulip sniffing brothers.

So you can imagine my horror last night when, in a group with some of the young lads where we chucked about ideas about what love was about, when I proposed we do something to show love to a particular individual the lads suggested baking him a cake!

Oh the shame! I'd rather take a hike at that suggestion. But actually I'm lying: I love baking. But I'm just quaking in mortal fear as word gets around that in our brother's cell group we do... baking.