Rowing Blind

 

Just over a week ago I was in Leptocorea, a small coastal town just an hour’s drive south of Thessaloniki, Greece. After a day in transit in London enroot from South Africa we had landed in Thessaloniki where we were met by two team mates who had arrived earlier and hired a car. We boldly headed out, Andy driving on the right hand side of the road for the first time, only to find after an hour that we were heading north towards Albania. By this time it was around midnight! Two hours later and after a short break at a road side café where we watched a group of men racing from car to car looking for a working fire extinguisher to deal with the source of smoke that was pouring forth from the back wheels of a large lorry… we arrived in Leptocorea!

About twenty of us all told had gathered for three days. It was the first time in 3 and half years that we had gathered, the majority had not been present at the last meeting. This was to be a very significant time together. We will not know for sure for many years what exactly was set in motion by God’s spirit amongst us during those days but there was one thing that I noticed in particular.

Most of those present were Fusion team and many were staff members, committed to a life of full time ministry on no salary, trusting to God for his direction and provision in our lives. That statement though easy to write in reality describes a daily wrestle, a lifelong training, a constant temptation to look to sources other than God for sustenance and direction. That statement represents adventure and joy, life and deep fulfilment, but it also represents times of anguish, bewilderment and confusion. And so it is when God calls frail human beings to walk together and with him, to live by faith and not by sight.

As leaders in this setting it is easy to become weighed down under the burden of caring for others on this incredible but difficult road, often there is the burden of carrying our spouses and children as well; we become preoccupied and exhausted. This weight can become unbearable at times – mainly because it wasn’t designed to be born by us in the first place (although we give it a jolly good go!) but by God himself as we walk with him.

Here is what I saw beginning to happen over those three days.

Each of us with ears plugged and blind folded, holding an oar and rowing with all our might. It was a struggle and no one felt like they were making much progress; each was getting wetter and wetter, and more exhausted. Then one person decided to unplug their ears, suddenly they could hear all that was happening around them. One by one others did the same. People stopped rowing and struggling and started to listen, taking in the new reality around them. Each became aware of others close by them, one or two even reached out and touched each other. It was these ones who first took off their blind folds, they gasped and then with a laugh of recognition realised what they had been doing. One by one others did the same and eventually everyone had their eyes open and their ears unplugged. They realised that they were all in the same boat, with the same leader, heading for the same destination. Once the laughter had died down, knowing what needed to be done, they quickly arranged themselves and amidst jokes and laughter, keeping their eyes on the cox, they settled into a rhythm of rowing and sliced with ease through the water.

We are not all fully hearing and seeing yet, but with time we will and its going to be exciting what happens from that point on!

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three days alive

The task was to locate and articulate the dream that would take us through the next 2 decades. After a pilgrimage of training, mission and reflection in the summer, followed a couple of months later by a week of ‘Foundations for life and mission’, we had three days together. We weren’t harnessing just any dream, not only was it be ‘ours’ but it was to be a dream for an entire nation.

working on the dream...

working on the dream…

Those three days with the Brazilianteam were the most exciting I have spent for a few years. We were so alive as we went on the journey together. They drilled down to find the gems, the finger prints of God in the history and people of Brazil, getting greater clarity as they shared with me and each other. ‘I’m not usually patriotic’ exclaimed one after a few hours of this work ‘but I LOVE my country!’ . We looked at the areas where God’s glory and presence was most absent in the nation today, and the conviction and call to mission between them took root. It wasn’t long before they came up with a vision for their work and lives in Brazil to take them into the next 20 years.

I felt so alive during those three days. To be part of a gr

oup of people who became friends… brothers and sisters on a mission, was like basking in the healing sun and letting the sea breeze blow away the staleness of ill health. As I look back on my life I have been incredibly blessed at several points to be part of a group like this; in Leicester, at Trinity in Poatina, in South Africa during 2009 and again in 2011.

Last week I visited a school in Cambridge with a friend who’s great, great, great grandfather was the founder. We went to the whole school chapel service and as the place filled up with junior and high school kids, I remembered the excitement of working and walking with teenagers who were on the frontier of discovery of life (and sometimes knowledge!).  Although there is something deeper for me about working with young adults and teenagers, there was this similar theme of being with friends on a mission, sharing life as we move into the future together. it is something I aspire to and for which my heart longs.

The Brazilians went away with a plan and strategy for the next few months, and they continue to meet and pray over skype, I am looking forward to catching up with them and sharing life with them again. One  thing is for sure, although they are separated by many miles from each other, they are alive and moving forward together.

team Brazil..

team Brazil..

‘the ordinary people, your Majesty….’

‘It is the ordinary people, Your Majesty, who would most readily give their lives in defense of your kingdom. It is just that being ‘ordinary’ they would rather be asked and not told.’ Oliver Cromwell addresses the King of England, in the movie Cromwell. I have just had three teenage girls staying with me. Each one has her own unique story of struggle and victory. Each carries her own scars, some more private than others. I loved how  each evening they would burst into the house and excitedly tell me all that had happened during the day; they were doing Fusion’s Foundations course. Listening to their chatter got me thinking again about a number of things. Watching them vie for my attention, to be heard and attended to, reminded me of the fight that we all go through to find our space in this world where we are seen and valued – at least I know I have. I think for some of us the fight never ends.

I recently ran into the pain of being seen as a commodity and not as a person. What was interesting for me to observe, was the rising anxiety and fear within me that bubbled to the surface in anger. When I know that you see me or at least that you want to see and know who I am, I feel safer. I think there is a sense in which I can assume that you realize I have a heart that carries dreams and pains and that I am not yet all I was made to be, but its coming. However when I feel like you see me as less than that, and I am just a rag to plug the gap in your wall, I fear that those things most precious to me that even I cannot yet name, will surely suffer harm and even die. In that moment I will resist you fiercely. However, if on the other hand you do see me you will find that I will willingly fight by your side to the end.

There were times this week when the girls fought fiercely, each one violently protecting their ground against the enemy. It often seemed petty, but over the week I have grown to suspect that for one in particular the fight was for her soul. I think she feared that if she didn’t resist with all her might, she would disappear in the fog of other people’s agendas and be lost forever. This morning I had a quiet word with this one’s adversary, and it was lovely to watch – when given the space to choose for herself without fear of loss, she pulled through, like I knew she would.

There is something about being asked and not told that tells us that we are human and we are precious; and we find that we are capable of transcending our own brokenness.

Mercy by Webinar

I am part of a wonderful, quirky movement that I like to believe is precious to the Father. We prefer to be together than apart. We prefer to start business with time to hear how each other is doing. We prefer it when we are rooted in God’s love and directed by him. We prefer to make major decisions through a process of consensus whereby everyone moves together, sensitive to God’s spirit. We can look strange to those who are just meeting us for the first time… especially given that all these things remain as true at the core of who we are now when we number in the hundreds and are spread across the globe, as they were decades ago when we were a smaller movement limited to one country.

Rather like my own walk through life as an individual however, its easy for a movement too, to lose sight of those things that are precious to us and remind us of who we are. Sometimes fear and mistrust creeps in and we tell ourselves that we are on our own, and that is what we prefer after all. Who in their right mind would think that its possible to walk in authentic fellowship when there are so many of us spread across so many countries? Who, we ask ourselves?

Two weeks ago about 20 of us connected across 15 time zones, continental reps and other leaders in the movement. We were together by webinar, for a total of 8 hours over two days. We had never done it quite like this before. We heard each other, we saw each other, we began to share our worlds together. Not just the things that were happening, but how we were going, personally. Not just the pretty, easy stuff, but the stuff of pilgrims on a long journey. Not just ourselves but those that God had called us to live and serve with. Not just the victories but the defeats and the questions we were living with our hearts and lives. Spread out across the globe, we were closer than we have been for a long while.

Mercy, like empathy is knowing what life is like for another; we humans were created for fellowship. I thank God for a moment when we became more human, when we began to be present to one another. Thank God for webinar!

i dont know what i dont know, there in lies the challenge….

Last time I shared about the team having a rough time at Kids Club. The process of debriefing the incident was fascinating. We used the restorative practice frame work which helped the team put the data out on the table then disclose how they individually felt and experienced the incident and finally what each one would find helpful as they moved forward.

Here are some of the things that the team said a few days later when we were referring to the process; ‘it was so good to know that someone understood what was going on for me’ ‘ it was good to hear how the others experienced it – instead of just being angry, it was good to understand’. The process helped me ‘be open about my own experience but also see how what I did effected the others.’ ‘ I want to get better at actually supporting the others, not just saying it, but doing it’.

At the start of the process there was a lot of circling the issue and veiled accusations,  a polarization had started with one member who’s reaction in the incident had been more expressive, being the brunt of the hard feeling. People were fairly stuck in their primary circuit of self blame and projected blame, as well as guilt and shame.

Through the process which took about 30 minutes, there was a significant shift for each of them as they heard each other and put themselves in each other’s shoes. In doing that they were able to own their own stuff and each accept responsibility for their contribution to the incident. I was impacted to see the spontaneous grace towards one another that they were then able to express. Hope rose as they saw a way forward for them as a team and that all was not lost but this incident could be used to bring strength to the kids at the kids club as well.

A whole week has passed since the incident and I have seen the team continue to learn how to see and understand each other and build a culture where others are welcome, seen and understood. The incident and the process that followed is now a point of reference for them.

I am reminded of the prayer of Elihu in the book of Job – ‘that which I see not, show me’. As long as I remember that I don’t know what I don’t know, I have half a chance of getting to a place of healing and resolution with my brothers and sisters, of learning and growth regardless of the situation I am in. Empathy….