God of the bleak

I love the sunshine. Closing my eyes and feeling them kissed by the warm rays as a gentle breeze ruffles leaves close at hand. That sunny feeling, the smells and sounds and sights of a temperate summer. I love it all. I call this ‘nice weather’ and I associate it with things going well and God being present.

Grey skies, cold bleakness, rain falling, collar turned up against the biting wind, head down, ‘Quick, get home as soon as you can. God where are you?…’

I realised as I took the journey through this year’s British Pilgrimage of Hope, that I expect to meet God in the nice weather, but I associate bad weather with his absence. It didn’t take much to see that this was also true in life; I assume that he isn’t close when life turns bleak, I assume, when life’s weather turns bad its because he turned away and frowned on me.

I found a treasure this year on pilgrimage. It was the realisation that God is as much in the driving rain as he is in the blue skied sunshine. So rather than wishing the bleakness away in my frustration, I can encounter and welcome the saviour right in the midst of it. This is a truth that the early Celtic saints would have lived and breathed, I am thankful for the this gift they pointed me to.

Since returning from Pilgrimage I have encountered a string of events, some personal and others more remote but impacting me profoundly, most of which I have found bewildering. Many of them I simply have not understood God’s action in, most of which have been bleak, discouraging and some have been desperate. I just read a prayer I wrote after walking the Pilgrim’s Way to Holy Island, it gives me hope and I share it with you here.

High King of Heaven, source of all life, God of all creation, Father and Shepherd…
Take me by the hand and lead me in this day, on this journey.
Be in the bleakness, be in the breeze, be in the gentle Sun breaking through the clouds and kissing my face. Be in the cold rain and driving wind. Be in the soft, wet mud and sand. Be in the horizon. Be in the flush of my cheeks.
Bless me Father, for I am your child; sin bound, broken, weak and frail.
Bless me Father with the touch of your breath and your closeness.
Bless me Father to know your hope in every moment.
Bless me Father with prayers that bring me back to you, when I find myself walking on the edge, the knife edge between life and despair.
Amen.

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Dont Touch!

I have just returned from a ministry trip to Albania. We were there to help run a week-long foundational course for life and mission – many of you will have heard of and seen me write about Foundations before. The Albanian courses are phenomenon in themselves. Speak to many outside Albania, who have done a Foundations course and they will tell you how equally great and grueling the week is. If they are looking for influence, they will then proceed to share how the content really should be cut down and the schedule spaced out, how unreasonable it is to expect people cope with the pace. Then come and ask any of young person connected with the Fusion team in Albania and you hear a very different story.

Foundations in Albania is a highlight in the year! It’s about vibrant, electric times of worship. It’s about discovering the God of the bible alive and in their midst. It’s about complete surrender at the cross. It’s about preparing to change the world together. It’s a time of refreshing, fun, volleyball and dancing past midnight. The chance to go is coveted by the teenagers – spaces are now limited to those who have never done it before as the campsite can only take 80 people!

In Australia we do what we call ‘Youth Foundations’ where the sessions are presented in a very youth friendly way with work books and craft activities to keep the young people’s focus during the sessions. Every minute of the day is structured with team activities so young people are on the go, learning, creating, the whole time. Not so in Albania, its straight, no frills, ‘adult’ foundations! Last week of the 60 Albanians doing the course the vast majority were in their teens and early twenties. So how does this work?

As I hung out with the team and the participants I think I might have stumbled on the key. The leaders have a passionate commitment to God and seeing their generation experience his love and life. For each of them Foundations has been a profound journey that equipped them to fulfill this passion and to know God more. Their passion is contagious and the young people they work with are direct beneficiaries. Together through the year they experience God’s life and love amongst them and overflowing. Foundations then becomes a gathering of celebration and empowering together to change the world. The intensity and the schedule are irrelevant as they discover God and his purpose for their lives.

The team in Albania are reaching a whole generation and Foundations is a key part of their strategy. No frills, it works. You were to ask them they’d say – don’t touch it! (apart from the movie ‘Cromwell’ that is!).

Back from my travels!

Hi there!

Sorry i have been so quiet for so long. I am back from 5 weeks of traveling – 3 weeks retreat/holiday and 2 weeks work.

Here are a few of my highlights from the Albanian Foundations course we helped run last week:

  • ·         Young people crowded around the candle at the front of the stage, watching as their pieces of paper symbolising things they wanted to put right, burnt away.
  • ·         Thundering round of applause as the movie Amazing Grace ended.
  • ·         Young people coming to faith!
  • ·         “I’m going to change the world, forget Ancient History, I’m doing political science at Uni now!”
  • ·         Cheering throughout the slide show during the festival debrief.
  • ·         Dancing till way past midnight on the last night.
  • ·         Young people on the edge of their seats drinking in God’s word.
  • ·         Seeing trainers take the plunge and deliver units with all their heart for the first time.

      i put together a photobook of the team in Albania if you would like to have a look, here is the link:

http://blur.by/184ylnU

A Personal Pilgrimage

This gallery contains 7 photos.

  Last week was the grand finale of our summer experience, the adapted pilgrimage of Hope that we have been doing. We had a day in London on Monday exploring the reformers and then on Wednesday we made the journey up to the north of the country to join St Aiden’s footsteps onto Holy Island. […]

three things l love to do

 

During my recent trip abroad we covered three different countries and I got to connect significantly with four different teams. It was great! That time was almost a cameo of the things I love the most in life.

In South Africa we were a team of five with an impossible task to accomplish – the number of things to achieve and journeys to facilitate was almost ridiculous – but it was all for a huge, godly, kingdom dream… So we went for it and together we saw it all come together; we had mountains of fun, worked our butts off and in the process got to know and love God, the community and each other more.

In Greece, although sick and exhausted from the South African job, it was exhilarating and fascinating to help facilitate a process that helped us move forward as individuals, teams and as an international group. I really enjoy being part of that tie up between the big picture and the individual, the task and the life between us.

And from there I headed to Albania with Erion, Lysiena and Besi. It was a four hour road trip north-west from Thessaloniki through the hill country of northern Greece. Then across the boarder into Albania where the countryside feels like you have entered some bygone era when we got around on horses and donkeys, using carts to carry our loads to market. When we farmed small holdings of land in our families, together ploughing, planting and then harvesting in the heat of the day. It’s a different life and a different pace.

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

That evening I was dropped off at Lorena’s home where I was to stay for the weekend, and I slept! The next 48 hours were so different to the previous 3 weeks. This part of the trip was centred around cafes and shared meals! It was about doing life together, hanging out, spending time sharing together. It is something I love but I don’t get to do that often, there was no great task to achieve, no burning agenda items to cover, it was just about being present. Not just physically present but fully present. I learnt so much about what life was like for these guys individually and as a team and I was nourished and energised in the process. Sometimes it was just me and one other person, other times it was a whole group of us, or just three.

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

The café stops weren’t in my honour, its just how the team function, they simply enjoy each other’s company and ministry takes place as they do life together. In fact in between the café stops was a youth meeting, a Sunday service and a festival – there were other things that they did, those were just the three things I took part in.

Besi and Lino - beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

Besi and Lino – beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

I remember many years ago when I first started traveling, reflecting on how God shows up in the person of a stranger, but we often miss out because we are so preoccupied with something busy. My time in Albania reminded me how I really love just being present with no particular agenda but to care and not be indifferent.

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