For coming back to God

Penitence does not grow by our looking gloomily on our own badness, but by looking up to God's loveliness, God's love for us.
--William Congreve


Being Touchy - Jesus Army Life, Day 366

Photo by Buhny at Flickr.com At our breakfast together last Sunday we all shared on what we felt we needed most: one brother said affection. That's got me thinking some...

I'm not sure what I can say really. I'm guessing that for men needing affection is more difficult than for women. Touch for men is limited to a very select few and even then it may not be a very rich experience. Women, on the other hand, cuddle, pat and generally groom each other all the time - at least they seem to from my observation. And that's cool, they've obviously learnt socially to fulfill a need that men can't or won't learn - it's not a big part of our masculine make-up. But maybe I'm missing the point, maybe there's affection women need too which is hard to come by.

In community we, even the men, hug each other a lot. That's something I guess (in some cultures men kiss and hold hands without a thought!) But I'm guessing that maybe giving affection has to be a little more intuitive than the occasional brotherly hug. It's important for all people to know some tactile communication. It speaks volumes - it says you're accepted, I can let down my guard around you, I'm on your side, I need you.

But maybe it's just difficult for men to be affectionate when the next moment they need to be ready to knock your block off? All answers on a postcard please...


Milestones - Jesus Army Life, Day 365

Worcester Cathedral set. Looking towards Worcester Cathedral from Powick battlefield. By Fred Bloggz of Flickr.comNew things are happening at White Stone. On Saturday we had an experimental household split. This is the culmination of our 'more than 24' campaign, pushing towards creating two households in White Stone. Even after breaking into two groups there were still about 13 in each party - viable households of their own.

The single hour we spent apart went fairly well for both groups. There was some uncertainty but people rose to the challenge. We plan to have another go in two weeks.

We won't be separating yet, that won't happen until some time in the new year. But God has given us many quality saints and I have faith he will provide more - it should make the possibility for creating two strong house-churches very realistic indeed.

Also last week the brother's cell group made a foray into Worcester. This was also a bit of a milestone, since we plan to visit fairly regularly to evangelise, make friends and potentially begin a cell-group there. It all remains to be seen, but why not? God will build his Church, and he'll use us!

PS. I'm trying to learn the difference between furtive prayer and fervent prayer - see last week's entry.


We received some very sad news today. A friend and brother died last night. I can't really write anymore on this right now.

Many others were far closer to him than I was and my thoughts are with them.


Just life: Jesus Army Life - Day 360

Photo by ilferro_ud of Flickr.comIt's been a week of intimate moments, prophetic leadings, evangelism in a new town, running through the woods, sleeping in the woods, Holy Spirit movement, victories and defeats, love and disappointment, furtive prayer, dreams of the future, and lashings of banana yoghurt...

But that's just life I guess.


Unmistakable beauty - Jesus Army Life, Day 357

This morning, driving to work, the skies were clear, the sun shone brightly in the clean blue heavens and a hot air balloon climbed into the dreamy expanse. I didn't see the balloon for long, sometimes it was eclipsed by things closer to earth, sometimes the view was filtered by the flecks on the unclean part of the car's windscreen. An analogy for life maybe?

On Saturday the household visited Dunraven Bay.

Dunraven Bay by Whimsical Chris' of Flickr.com
I have rarely been to anywhere more beautiful in my life. There were cliffs and rock pools, and hills and secret gardens, and castles and woods and the wide sparkling, beautiful sea. I've never really been a seaside person. Given a choice of the elements I'm definitely more of the earthy sort. But the Bristol estuary leading out to the Atlantic was unmistakable in it's glory and quietly profound in the stillness of its power. So I've come to appreciate the coast, especially along the Vale of Glamorgan, as nature's invitation to freedom: freedom to see things from a new perspective, freedom to remember there is something more lasting than my own arrogant life, freedom to know that even this is a gift of love to be shared. The serenity was eloquence itself.

Days like this are wonderful for the household, they help us to remember that we are bonded together by something purer than the dust and flecks of everyday life.


Larking about - Jesus Army Life, Day 352

Last night, in an attempt to recover something of a liberty of spirit, we relived some of the larking about you do as children. We flew down hills like planes, we did some (spiritual) boasting, we lay back to stare at the sky in the long grass, we smashed our anger with sticks against a tree (and prophecied our passion afterwards).

On the way home, we spoke about building tree houses and sleeping in them and nicking milk of people's doorsteps. I'm getting more and more into the adventure of being spiritual people. There's energy in it... but I was wondering, what pranks did you get up to when you were young?


Spinning around - Jesus Army Life, Day 350

"Again! Daddy, again!" My friend is swinging round his young daughter, having just got home from work. (I've just wolfed down a packet of crackers... compare and contrast - lol). How does love spring up so naturally?

Yesterday evening we sat round the table for a pleasant and lingering meal time. There were candles on the table and various courses, including the mandatory olives. We'd deliberately set aside the time for the whole house-family to be together for a while. Nowadays, it doesn't happen unless it's planned. But times like these remain crucial to our well-being as a church household.

Afterwards we swapped presents we'd bought for one another (for a maximum of £2 each). I was especially touched at the thought that had gone into mine: 3 bottles tied together with a spiritual message about containing the Holy Spirit. Other gifts were special: stuffed bananas, picture boxes, amazing dragon fruit, a calendar of sweets and messages...

It was also the birthday of a young teenager, and delightfully funny friend, so the time together was even more special.

I'm left to reflect that we continue to need to find ways of drawing close. It's all to easy to be drawn in different directions. But like a parent and child spinning round together, it's imperative that together we create a continuous vortex of love.


Thoughts I had today - Jesus Army Life, Day 346

On the scale of 1-5 today scores 2 as an "Oh No!" day.

What happens when my Dad becomes too ill to help himself?

Having the gift of the gab means you get more responsibility.

How can I talk about purity?

The church needs to take up free running to reach the masses!

I'm gonna practice guitar on weekdays and saxophone on weekends.

I want to fall in love with Jesus again.

When you're craving love yourself, you can't love others at maximum capacity.

I wish evangelism was more natural.

My brother is excellent at being fun and doing crazy things with food.


Go down to the woods

Last night, we took the lads out on a spiritual adventure. We blindfolded them and took them into some woods. At a certain time they were released and told to find their way back to the entrance. The objective? To practice walking with God. They were encouraged to pray as they went, to listen to God to see what he would say to them.

I don't think it worked as well as I hoped. They were all to keen on the challenge of finding their way back. Ho-hum, boys will be boys.

Afterwards we had a fire together and explored the woods further, with much moaning from a couple of the boys about getting home on time, but that seemed to be a manifestation of their autism.

Still, I think it was the best cell group I've ever been part of.

Give anything day - Jesus Army Life, Day 345

Yesterday I was asked: If you could give your household anything what would you give them?

The question was in the context of our charity work having just received a big donation of coffee.

My answer? A chest full of colourful, unblown up, oddly shaped balloons.

What would you have said?


Thoughts on solitude continued - Jesus Army Life, Day 344

How is it possible to be with many people and be alone? Please forgive me, I'm not in some depressive state. I don't feel particularly lonely - but this stuff about solitude has got me a bit cornered.

How is it possible to have a meeting where you join in fellowship with others you love, admire and respect. And yet, at the end of it, not feel well met. There's a certain lack of satisfaction which I often feel at the end of the night... a kind of, 'Hang on! It can't be night time yet, I've only just got going. I've got more life in me, I want to live!' But everyone has gone to bed... Almost as often as I refuse to spend time in my bedroom, I am also the last person to go to bed - not always, especially when I discipline myself to get an early night, but often. And then there are other times when I seriously just fear to join in a conversation: because I know I won't find whatever it is in me that wants to be met, met.

Let's not get this out of proportion I'd be happy to go away for a few days by myself, out in the country or in a city, just being alone. I've done it before, it can be enriching, I'm not scared of it.

But they say you can be lonliest in a crowd.

I'm not setting out to point the finger at anyone else either. I know that this is something in me. Something obscure. The trouble is I won't be able to move forward on this one until I find the right door to walk through. As of yet I haven't found it.


Fighting solitude - Jesus Army Life, Day 343

Solitude is the place where we can reach the profound bond that is deeper than the emergency bonds of fear and anger. Although fear and anger can indeed drive us together, they cannot give rise to a common witness. In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who can satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God's all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made but given.

Solitude, then, is not private time in contrast to time together, nor a time to restore our tired minds. Solitude is very different from a time-out from community life. Solitude is the ground from which community grows. When we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we enter into a deeper intimacy with each other...

Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, 1979, p13.

I don't get it? How can solitude lead to community, bonding, finding brothers and sisters? I heard this passage read twice now and each time I haven't understood it. In fairness though I don't think they ever read the last sentence - that explains Nouwen's thinking more. But other people still seem to have keyed into it where I've been feeling left angry and frustrated.

There's an internal reaction within me that means I already don't want to listen to arguments on solitude. An explosion has gone off inside of me each time I've heard that passage and I'm not exactly sure why.

Nouwen is a great writer. He's been described as the leading Catholic intellect of the last century. I've got a lot of time for him, particularly his arguments about fear. But here I find myself disagreeing with him. Perhaps it's because he describes solitude through paradox - that makes it confusing, and admittedly I need to read the book the passage comes from, but then also there's that internal reaction...

I've noticed it before. Of all the people in my community home I'm the person who spends least time alone where it can be helped. I'm almost never in my bedroom during the day. I don't like being there, I want to be where the life is. Personally I do like having time to think and pray, maybe to read, the space to imagine. Nouwen makes sense there, community does exist because of a higher purpose, something that transcends it - it doesn't just exist in and of itself. I guess I just react at the idea of glorifying in solitude - I hate the thought.

Okay, introspective moment: I've always felt alone. At school I had a few mates but always searched for a close friend, it became a fruitlesdisastrousous quest for popularity. At home, things sometimes felt like an emotional wasteland, actually they often felt that way. I'm not good at recognising my emotions, in love I was never sure I wanted to be in that relationship (there are a lot of factors I'm missing out here, but I'm just joining strands together). I remember when I became a Christian it felt like a dam of emotions burst open, I remember feeling at times so angry when Christians didn't love each other, I remember feeling so alone at times. At my lowest point I knew it was because I felt alone. And now, living in community, which I love, with friends whom I adore I still feel partly isolated, incomplete, alone.

I love life, I love people, I love my Jesus, but this is one area of my life where there seems to be a gaping wound - even living in community - I don't understand it. I don't think marriage is a total solution. All I can do at this point is ask God to come in to this situation, point things out, make things clear, and trust him to do the work in me that he needs to do.

The trouble with Maria - Jesus Army Life, Day 342

We've been fasting and praying for breakthrough in various people's lives lately. It's been amazing to see people who seemed to be drifting away make a return. I don't pretend to know how God's divine hand works in these things. All I know is, as was quoted recently, "when we pray, coincidences happen." And it's been happening for a handful of individuals.

I'm not going to pretend that it's all rosy either. We're not exactly talking about the return of Maria in the Sound of Music here (that would be funny). But the love we're talking about is deeper than any Hollywood musical could portray.

I've been praying personally for the kind of grace Jesus always showed. The welcome and acceptance that was powerful enough to soften so many hearts. You may think that's naive, but if Jesus did it then I know it's possible. You see, he's still alive, and he lives in us.

The scary thing is there are some members of our household who know the entire script of this film!!