Nice work if you can get it!

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Sitting on the beach going through some edits with a colleague last week: ‘I don’t feel like this is work, it feels more like a holiday.’ ‘hmmm, it is work, we are working right now.’ ‘yes but we are on the beach!’ Nice work if you can get it! So last week the European leaders […]

God’s not schizoid….

Its nice to be back to blogging. In the break  I have moved house, relocated office, been to Rome, viewed my Mother’s prospective new home and attended 4 different churches. From all that and much more I have plenty to reflect on and share with you!

One of the things I appreciate about the movement that I am part of is that there are very few decisions of importance and wide reaching consequence that anyone gets to make on their own. Over the last few weeks I have been involved in a number of important decision making processes, many of which will have consequences that will be felt right across the international movement.

As a Christian mission movement we believe that God has an opinion and a say in our life and the decisions we make. In a discussion recently I found myself saying ‘God’s not schizophrenic’. My statement was a reflection on the current complexity we were facing brought about by the fact that not only do we believe that God has a say in what we do, but we do NOT believe that any one person or group has the monopoly on revelation from God as to what he wants; but rather that ‘together we have the mind of Christ’. So what happens when different ones seem to have opposing notions (equally felt to be of God by the respective proponents) of the right way forward?

In this situation, in our movement’s context, we would have one of three main options; the first and easiest is to assume that one person or group does have the monopoly on ‘God’s truth’ after all – they’re the more spiritual ones or they prayed longest and hardest, or they know the bible really well or … whatever. The second is that God is in fact ‘schizophrenic’, and in one setting he said one thing and in another he said something quite different; so really it doesn’t matter which we choose, opt for the one we like best, its all just a game of roulette anyway. The third is that God has indeed spoken to each of his children who have asked and listened, what each have shared is a complex mixture of personal agenda and divine inspiration, but the joyous task is for us together in grace and mercy, with Holy Spirit’s continued help, to discern the whole of what God is saying as we piece together the different parts… separating out the stuff that we threw into the mix of ourselves.

If I am honest, I reckon we go for the first two options more often than we would like to admit! However when we do go for the third, I reckon heaven celebrates and the powers of darkness are stricken with terror. Because I believe that the third option is an expression of Trinitarian unity in action, it is humble disciples with their master, seeking first his Kingdom. The third option is extremely ‘unnatural’, it requires all those concerned to yield to the others, it asks for an unusual level of humility, it demands an acknowledgment that God is as much at work in others as he is in you (and vise versa), it relies on each party articulating what they see and demands that the group take the necessary time and action to create the environment where all these things are in fact possible.

Its easy to see that there are no end of factors that make that third option so difficult to achieve. For me with my back ground in Soul Survivor and Vineyard, one of the most important things I learnt was to say ‘I could be wrong, or only partly right, but I think God might be saying ….’. this not only acknowledges my fallibility as a human being, but it also welcomes fellowship in discerning God’s voice. (it was a bit of a breath of fresh air from the more classic Pentecostal style I had grown up with!) The down side is that I now react when people say things like ‘God said… ‘ or ‘God’s spoken very clearly and therefore we should ….’, the closedness that communicates to me then becomes a hurdle to me stopping and hearing what God might in fact be saying in what they bring.

As a movement we have chosen the hard rout in this area and one that not all Christian organisations would choose they choose the harder routs in other areas. It’s not a superiority thing, it’s simply about staying true to your organisation’s mandate and mode of operation. As we do the work to go for option three even when its really tough and time is short, we experience his favour and blessing because I believe that when all the things that make that option possible are in place, we are much more in line with God’s nature which means that his kingdom is able to emerge a little more in us and through us.

‘The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (uncontaminated). It is also peace loving (shalom) and gentle at all times and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere.’ (James 3v17) I think that’s what we’re talking about!

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!

stop and smell the roses

IMG_1125The Jamie journey has lost a bit of steam recently I am sad to say. The first couple of weeks of 2013 have passed at a full and furious pace, leaving little time to stop and smell the roses … or cook nice meals just because. This sad state of affairs has got me thinking though…

A week ago I started getting sick and while I continued trying to keep ‘business as usual’, I found fighting the virus irritating, like trying to run 400m sprint with a 20Kg rucksack on my back! Then the snow came, along with some friendly advice to take a bit of a rest … leading to me working from home on Friday. As the weekend has unfolded, the reality of the snow and its impact on our move-ability has settled and I have found it in myself to slow down, go with the flow, let my body heal and life happen.

All this has got me thinking about why I work so hard. Why I often don’t allow myself to enjoy life, but rather feel myself bowed under the weight of many things, often pushing my soul and body their limits. My housemates and I watched ‘The Kid’ last night, a movie in which Russ Duritz, played by Bruce Willis, is forced to get in touch with his childhood and as a result becomes more of the man he was always made to be. I have recently embarked on a series of counselling sessions which is enabling me to go on a similar journey. I have to say I am really looking forward to discovering the things ‘little me’ wants me to know and learn, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I will enjoy life (and work) a lot more as a result … and probably cook more Jamie meals!

Its three weeks since the last one we had. It was lamb with a vegetable platter, chanti graIMG_1123vy and mint sauce followed by the most refreshing Eton mess I have every had the pleasure of experiencing!! We had the meal on the last Sunday of the year, as our house Christmas meal, Anika had arrived home from Aus about 24hours before, so this was the meal during which we all exchanged presents. The whole process of these meals is special, from the household deciding which one to do, to the shopping, then Anika reads out the instructions as I bumble along following them while we chat. Then there’s laying the table, lighting the candles, gathering everyone who is eating, taking the pics and finally, enjoying a meal with friends. Oh yeah, its nice!

Summer School of Arts!

Every January the Faith and Arts summer school is run here in Poatina. For a number of years it was a highlight for me, something I really looked forward to and thoroughly enjoyed. I haven’t taken part in one fully for a while now. I loved being part of a group where everyone was free to explore, discover, express and celebrate the gifts we all have.

I am still inspired by the journey we took each year in worship, starting the week with familiar song based worship, everyone nervous, not sure what to expect but as the days progressed, barriers came down and trust built amongst us. By the end of the week, our time together worshiping God was a peaceful, joyous, authentic celebration with movement, paint, music, rhythm, voice, light, liturgy, nature, colour, incense, sculpture, water, candles, images… it was awesome, for me, a little taste of heaven!

This journey with the worship paralleled a similar journey in the electives. Each participant chooses one master class to be part of for the whole week. From dance to clowning, statuing to fine art, photography to glass work; each class was lead by a professional in that field. Anyone was welcome and everyone had a go. It didn’t matter if you were doing your subject for the first time or had been practicing for years; we were here to learn and grow together, to encourage one another and celebrate each one’s creativity. It was a privilege to go on the journey myself from excruciating self consciousness and doubt in my ability, through to being able to bring a gift to the community at the concert at the end of the week. I loved encouraging others on that journey too, seeing their amazement as their gift and contribution was celebrated – not out of fake flattery but genuinely because they had brought something good!

During one of the last summer schools I took part in, we worked on a collaborative piece where all 60 of us together, came up with a concept that we developed into a group performance; every one of us was involved! Producing a collaborative piece has now become an important part of the week’s process.

Each year the facilitators look out for something new to emerge that can be used to enhance our youth and community work and outreach across the globe, be it capacity building team, choreographing a dance or performance, a new creative activity to be a point of contact at a community event.

At the end of the weeklong summer school, we put on a concert to which the Poatina community is invited; everyone looks forward to the evening with great anticipation! The whole school works together to set up the community hall and create a ‘whole’ integrated, interactive experience. Each person’s work is showcased, performed or displayed. Some years we’ll have many things happening simultaneously around the hall with occasional breaks for center stage performance; its felt like La Ramblas in down town Barcelona on a festival day!! One year we had a pathway of sand, three inches deep, snaking around the hall, it had stepping stones of glass, each one with its own design or picture on it – these had been created by those in the glass work elective. The pathway was lined with boards displaying art by the fine art elective. So as each member of the community entered the hall, they walked through a cacophony of art, stepping on glass laid on beach sands!

So, yeah, Faith and the Arts Summer School is one of those things for which I am grateful; grateful for the inspiration it has been to continue on this journey towards wholeness and to encourage others in the same.

http://www.poatinaarts.com/index.php/faithandthearts

 

a ‘Jonah’ year

 

Last year was my Jonah year. Thinking about it reminds me of one of my heroines, Anne Shirley, otherwise known as Anne of Green Gables. You remember the time she got so upset about her beautiful head of red hair that she tried dying it with disastrously green results? That’s when she said to Marilla, all disheveled and tear stained, vowing to stay in her room until her now hideous mane grew out;  ‘I’ve had a Jonah day, Marilla! ’. Marilla’s response has brought me hope many times over the years: ‘Well, Anne Shirley, tomorrow is a new day, fresh with no mistakes.’

For me a Jonah day is when I loose the plot for whatever reason, and I do and say things that aren’t really ‘me’. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision to move away from what I know I am supposed to be doing like going back to South Africa, other times it’s a more subtle disowning of a trait, a hurt, a desire, a gift, a calling, a memory, a conviction or some other thing that makes me who I am.

I have been thinking about this over the last couple of weeks. I look to others for permission to do what I know I need to do. When I think of Cromwell announcing his intention to raise and train an army for war ‘with or without your permission, my Lord Manchester!’ I become aware of a conflict within me between the part that says ‘YES!’ because there are things I know I need to do ‘with or without your permission’… and the part that is fearful to step out and risk finding myself alone.

On the other hand, I know I need your fellowship. But how can we stay in fellowship with one another and God’s spirit, remain accountable and at the same time live for an audience of one?

The journey through my Jonah year ended up being a gift of redemption that helped to crystalise the direction of my life. This year, I’ve had to humbly receive the grace of each day being ‘a new day, fresh with no mistakes’, and do my best to stay with God. I have sometimes stood for what I felt was right even when it meant standing up to some in authority… I’ve grown some. But I can also see that I have been waiting for something, someone’s permission or approval or something, so that I can move forward… but I sense a tug inside, saying ‘come on, its time to jump’.

 

 

‘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.