Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Stray thoughts on Prayer & Unity.

Few things are as aggravating to a person's spirit than knowing you can explain & explain until the cows come home, the last trump blows & the sun ceases to shine & some people will never get what you are on about! Never. It's the sort of thing to send less hardy souls howling into the wilderness tearing their hair out.

So with that in mind there is one word I hate hearing more than any other in Christian circles & that word is unity. It makes me cringe.  It makes me immediately think less of the person who utters that clap~trap around me because sad experience has taught me something: most people do not mean what the bible means when they talk about unity. Generally they mean everyone who calls themselves a believer should just get along with each other.  You would think that would be easy but it's not.  Inevitably it means someone has to compromise.  Prayer meeting?  Can the charismatic pray in tongues or will that offend his non~tongue speaking brethren?  Never mind what the Spirit of God would actually like.  Can the prophet prophesy?  The healer heal? At which point have you compromised so much you have grieved & offended the Holy Spirit? Or upset a tender conscience?

Do not misunderstand.  I believe in unity ~ biblical unity. John 17:23 saysI in them and You in Me--that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You have loved Me. 

Our unity comes in Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit!  Without the Holy Spirit you are never going to get true unity.  Oh, for sure, you can get some semblence of it, some of the time, through what men manipulate & strive after but that is not the unity God had in mind.

It is possible to have a form of godliness but deny the power that can actually change us.  It's God's power, His Holy Spirit, we need because He will lead us into all Truth. These are not just pretty words.  I knew from Quaker Meetings that the Holy Spirit brought unity & it came with peace because everyone had the Spirit's assurance that they were agreed as to the will of God.

I can get tetchy in prayer meetings ~ not because I'm super spiritual or anything like that ~ but because people will often be in a great rush to dump their stuff & rush off & never wait to hear what God has to say to them.  I get it but it's rude ~ especially if you do it all the time.  I mean, what would you think of a person who did that to you?

People have issues in prayer.  Some tackle it like a shopping list, ticking of each thing on their mental list.  I've heard charismatics do tongues like a screaming match trying to outdo each other. Exhausting!  Some people get embarrassed, mumble into their shirt fronts & shut up fast. Some people give God His instructions....If it's embarrassing enough I've probably done it. I went years without praying because I was boring me, to say nothing of God.

That all changed the day God said: Pray out what I give you to pray.

You have no idea what a relief that was to my mind! God has things He wants us to talk to Him about. Things He wants to say to us. This has huge implications when it comes to the question of unity.

As a prayer group this is something we've had to struggle with.  I'm not shy when it comes to the Holy Spirit.  I'm a huge fan of His.  I love His presence.  I love how He can shine a bright light on scripture & illuminate it & bring it to vivid life. I can [& have been known to] rabbit on endlessly about the Holy Spirit but I also know that until you experience it it can all sound quite mad. 

Acts 4:24 says they lifted their voices together... homothumadon ~ with one mind. This is how Matthew 18:19 can work when Jesus says if two or three are in unision, of one mind, they can ask anything & it will be done for them.

This is not something that can be contrived or man made.  It is a work of the Holy Spirit.  He brings His people into unity.  We don't have to work & strive for it.  We don't have to connive, manipulate, or compromise.

We have been praying with this expectancy of unity ~ true unity.  Don't get me wrong.  Prayers are still heard & answered but unity brings power because God's involved in it up to the hilt.  Now our prayer times are starting to get super exciting.  God is sharing things ~ & everyone is hearing from Him!  We don't all hear the same way but we are sharing the same revelations. This is the unity wherein we can ask for anything knowing it will be done because Jesus said so. And it is exciting, an honour, that there are things the Lord is specifically asking us to pray for & He can grant our request because we are agreed, of one Spirit.

And because I know what true unity is the false vexs my spirit.  It saddens me that people will settle for less than God's ultimate best for them.  It breaks my heart to see religion in place of the power of God & lives unchanged. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Man seeks to change himself, his circumstances, his world, from the outside in.  God works from the inside out.  When we all have our hearts rooted deep in him we will have the unity we so crave.  Until then all we get is Satan's cheap imitation & it will do us no good in the end.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Distorted Vision.

I think my cats are rather beautiful & I know they are the biggest sooks.  They are at least partly ragdoll so they are incredibly gentle cats who flop in your arms when you pick them up, like hanging around their people & are non aggressive ~ mostly.  I wrote that & then thought how protective they are of me so have to qualify it. 

Odd they certainly are.

I am a cat person & I have owned cats nearly all my life & I have owned cats in all shapes & sizes with all sorts of personalities.  Ragdolls are stocky & compact & despite all that fur they don't need a lot of grooming as their fur doesn't tangle or matt. We joke they are nearly all fur.

This is what I think of when I think of my cats:

Or this:

Apparently what the postie sees is this:


Like I said, the cats are sooks.  A stranger ~ any stranger, will send them shooting for safety near one of their humans.  Failing that they will bolt into hiding & not reappear until the coast is clear again.  Ask our prayer group.  Even after years of the same people rocking up every single Tuesday morning Kirby [my tuxedo] still bolts into the rafters of the garage & cowers amongst the dust & cobwebs until they all leave again.

He missed his cue one morning & the postie surprised him.  Not sure who got the bigger shock, my cat, or the postie who spotted him shooting across our yard for safety. White & shaken she enquired of John what sort of an animal prowled about our yard.  Apparently we own some sort of monster cat.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Song & Stone.

Mostly, as a general sort of thing, I try to keep my life simple & calm.  I can do without excitements & after years of rushing madly after children I could happily stagnate until the end of days. However...

There are still things I will bestir myself for & toddling along to Heavensong is one of those things.

For ages Heavensong was at St Iggy's in that bit of Brisbane that no way, no how was I  prepared to negotiate on my own with neither Cait nor one of those lovely little gadgets that tell you when to turn left, right & upside down to aide me. It also meant borrowing Luke's car which has some very unusual quirks & makes me more nervous than usual.

However this time it moved to Coopooroo & Coopooroo is doable ~ especially for an afternoon. I rounded up the troops because this showcases Alison's senior choirs & it is always wonderful. Our Cait sings with both QFC & Exaudi Australis though not, naturally, with the Male Chorus despite Cait declaring, on occasion, that she sounds more like a man than some of the men.

We arrived just as the lights went down [thanks to traffic extending our travel time] to the lovely Spiegel im Spiegel. *sigh* Is there anything lovelier than voices just singing notes, no words, in tight harmony?

These sort of events are for performance hardening everybody but perhaps especially soloists. Some of them were quite breathy ~ nerves ~ but Jacqueline Duckworth sang O Mio Babbino Caro & while I am not an opera fan I have known Jackie for years.  She has always had a big, big voice & it was an absolute delight to hear how her voice has become richer, more full of colour & tone, more controlled after these last few years of operatic training.  I am looking forward to seeing her name prominently displayed in the QPAC program in years to come.

I was also very impressed with Jeremy Saywell who soloed Stars.  Confidence, or the appearance of it, is everything! And a big shout out to the youngest performers who must have been terribly nervous yet took their default position & awaited their cue with more aplomb than some of their elders! We had a glorious time! #chorusmistress

Sunday, of course, is church & the 1st Sunday of the month we are in the park.  I think we are sorta over nerves as such though some things never get any easier.  However John likes to do the bible reading & salvation message while the rest of us hold the fort at one of the picnic tables & chat ~ if absolutely forced too.  We aren't usually hassled though sometimes the kids think it's funny to switch of our electricity.  Frankly they deserve what they get if they leave me yodelling alone! Anyway the island has gotten used to us & for some people this is their monthly church meeting.  They park themselves around the peripheries because we have good music & nice clear speakers.

This time one of this kids pulled the electricity & hurtled off laughing maniacally.  We sort of found it funny because we just started again & turned the sound up! lol  However a little later we found stones raining down on our heads & that wasn't so funny. They were largish gravel chunks with sharp edges & I couldn't help but think of Stephen.  Such a small persecution but it makes you wonder what is affecting a child's spirit when the Good News draws such a reaction.

The next thing these same kids were clambering all over the jet skis tied off on the pool railing ~ not theirs ~ so one of our lovely ladies went & had a chat with them ~ not me.  It rarely occurs to me to actually go & interfere with other people but, as she pointed out, the police patrol regularly & would be along again shortly ~ which they were.  Not island kids & though they said they were 12 they didn't look it & what responsible parent lets even a 12 year old travel unsupervised out to the islands?  Not on a good trajectory & one can only wonder where they will end up.

So, yeah, an interesting weekend.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

One Beautiful Daughter.

 Every year round about this time Cait has a birthday ~ & every year since she was 10 she has been working on her birthday.  C~Gen is finally over & Vocal Manoeuvres can  move into the rest of the year's performances. This year is no different.

Twenty~one is still something of a milestone.  The teen years are gone & finished. Twenty~one is officially an adult.  In a few weeks, just before Libby comes home on her long furlough, Cait & Luke will move out together to share a mainland house.

Talk about drama.  Cait is working Thursday [her actual birthday] Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, so I decided we'd celebrate Wednesday because she, at least, will be home. We are in the process [long & prolonged] of redoing both our kitchen & bathroom, both badly in need of it, so I don't have a working oven & decided to order a cake from the bakery. I explained carefully that I wanted a sponge but that due to allergies I couldn't have either Jam or cream. I arrived this morning to find the baker fuming, the cake man departed & a cake daubed with cream. *sigh*  If they had just said, I could have ordered something else or reverted to our no cook cheesecake. The baker was so angry [not at us, just the lack of communication from staff] that I was in tears coming home. So much easier to have done something else than try to rectify the problem now. *sigh*

Anyway, like I said, twenty~one is sorta special so I went over to the mainland last week to find the girl a present. Cait's needs these days are so specialised that she is best left to choose her own things but still, I wanted to get her something that she could keep for a lifetime & immediately ran into issues because the only thing Cait had actually asked for was a pet cactus.

My first thought was a lovely piece of jewellry ~ & I found some nice pieces within budget but Cait is so super allergic that the chances of her actually being able to wear it were pretty much zero. What does a renowned bibliophile revert to when all else fails?  Why, books of course!  Not any old books either.  No. No. No. No, we choose specially illustrated children's classics!

Cait already has Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Ingpen.
Aren't his illustrations just superb?

So to my beautiful daughter [who will probably never understand how very, very much she is loved] I wish you could see yourself as I see you: beautiful, generous, thoughtful, kind. Happy 21st, Munchkin!

Your Vision is too Small.

I think people think we're dumb.  Either that or they don't realise how transparent they are.

We get asked a lot, "So; how's your church going?"  What they really mean is, "How many bums on seats do you get?" I know because if we answer truthfully, "We're doing great!" their very next question is, "So how many people show up?" *sigh*

Often they're the same people who bag out mega churches so consistency is obviously not their thing.  I'd like to point out Jesus had just 12 disciples & of those 12 he had just 2 intimate friends. Playing the numbers game is not smart. You can have lots & lots of bums on seats with no~one really growing in Christ  & growing in Christ is what we're after, natch?

Now most Sundays we have between 4 & 6 regulars.  Every single one is growing so I count that as a major success. What's more the majority are the evangelical types so they are witnessing to everyone they know.  And I know they get mocked & taunted because they come to our church but here's the thing:  No church on the island is larger than 10~15 people but we are still the largest!

It makes me giggle & our church knows it because way, way, way back I had a very conservative American friend who doesn't believe in women preachers who asked me to give her an example of the sort of thing I preached on & the easiest way to do that was to blog it. So I did. I am on my 2nd blog now, though that is now officially our church blog.  I do keep our people informed of which countries & how many people visit because I think it is an encouragement & we pray for many of those countries.

The thing is I need the reminder too because when the Lord first told me He was sending me to the nations I laughed. If you knew how tiny our island is you would have laughed with me.  You don't even find us on regular maps we are that small. In the larger scheme of things we simply don't exist. While I was busy having a good giggle at what the Lord had said He reminded me about the blog & that I was already sending His word to the nations.

My fellow bloggers know that only the blog owner has access to the stats so casual readers can't see how many people visit or even exactly where they are from but I really want my co~preacher to be encouraged by how far all the hard work she does is reaching so I make a point of updating her regularly ~ & our church is pretty in touch with this whole thing.  I mean, they know we have a huge international outreach. It's one of those givens we don't talk about much but which everyone knows about because that's what we do as a church.  It's one of our ministries, along with Church in the Park, or Praise in the Park, or handing out supplies to the needy.

So John is waiting for a boat last week when this chappie comes over to chat.

"How's your church going?" asks chappie.

"Great!" says John.

"So how many people come? asks chappie. *sigh*

"Well, we had 273 Russians last week," says John. Yeah.  You can imagine.  His eyes just about popped out of his head. No, John wasn't lying.  They weren't in the building with us but they visited. And that is just the Russians.  We had visitors from America, France, Mauritius, the Ukraine, England....

A lot of the time we walk by sight instead of by faith when we have been told to do it the other way round!  Our vision is too small.  When we walk the way God calls us to walk we walk in His vision & that is always much, MUCH larger than anything we can envisage for ourselves.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Beautiful one day, glorious the next.

Today was one of those winter days you live for.  The sky was a deep icy blue, the water dimpled  & in amongst the mangroves the heat of the sun was trapped in a cozy warmth.  I headed down at low tide, fairly certain I wouldn't be wanted as my men folk were glued to the cricket.  

However no sooner did I reach the bottom of the steps than an plaintive mew greeted my ears.  I paused, uncertain whether I was being greeted or accosted.  Apparently I was being accosted.  Any time I attempted to move an imperative yowl rent the air.  I waited & in a minute or two I caught sight of a frantic tail wavering through the undergrowth & Kirby joined me, absolutely delighted I was out & about but far less happy to find I was heading away from our territory & proceeded to tell me all about it for the duration!  True to form any time he lost sight of me his *where are you? yowl disturbed the peace.  Most of the point could probably hear him.

The first thing we managed was to flush a monitor lizard.  Here he is halfway up the nearest gum tree. They have to be one of God's uglier creatures & round here I have seen them as long as 12 feet or so. Nothing on the old man carpet snake that used to haunt the water hole on the corner, his body  thick enough & long enough to create a fair sized speed bump.

 Feathers are fairly common, usually the big black or white ones from the Ibis who strut through the mangroves foraging at low tide, occasionally the lovely big feathers that below to sea eagles or hawks, but rarely lovely little feathers like this.  Such soft, pretty colouring.

Large sea snail still inhabited ~ & we don't get shells as a rule, certainly none worth keeping.

 Then a sea urchin ~ also rare here.  The tumbling tide usually ensures they are smashed to bits. This one had ants still cleaning out the last inhabitant so I perched him on a tree branch to return for when he is no longer smelly. You can just see the flaked of bits of turtle shell beside him. I found the beak a bit further along, the head nearby & lots of the big flat plates that form the body but what really intrigued me was this bone, shaped rather like a wing & which I suspect is the last digit in one of the flipper fingers.  Yes, flippers have bone.  I had to look it up.  I don't do inside bits so I had no idea.  I thought it would be cartilage like a shark but apparently not.  I didn't bring it home ~ inside bits & all that.

Kirby & I shared a seat on a fallen branch for a while & listened to all the male  honeyeaters screaming their territorial rights.  My mad cat crawled all over me until I stood up when he announced boldly that it was time to return home & shot of like a rocket yowling madly to show me the right direction.

I love my cats but I don't think I want their company when I walk in the mangroves.  Far too noisy.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

My Favourite Day of the Week.

Do you have a favourite day of the week?

I do.  No, not Sunday, though our Sunday's are pretty special too. Sundays are always a bit fraught though, whether I am preaching or not. In the hour or so between getting up & vacating the house there are 2 cats to feed, 4 people to get in & out of the shower, fed & coffeed up, 2 kids to get on a boat... and because we don't own our own building we have the room we rent to set up before everyone arrives though we have that down to 10~15 minutes now. I love our praise & worship ~ & the anointing.  Lovely to preach under that anointing.

Just the same my preference is for Tuesdays. Tuesday is prayer group & bible study.  Tuesdays start early but the bonus is I don't have to leave home & the delightful ladies who crawl out of bed at horrendous hours to be here by 7.30am have graciously adjusted to my haphazard housekeeping & the fact we run 2 business & a church out of our home.

When we began we had 4 very different people who brought a variety of different backgrounds to the way they prayed & that created some unevenness.  Rabqa & I had learnt how to listen in prayer & I really wanted to develop a Spirit~led prayer group even though I knew that was a big ask because that is not how most of us are taught to pray.  John is our prayer leader & my propensity for being silent & waiting worried him in case it put people off.

One of the things I teach is there is no true unity until you have unity in the Holy Spirit.  When allowed to do His work unimpeded he irons out all our differences & brings us into a place where there are no man~made barriers.  It has taken time ~ & patience...lots of patience~ Everyone still prays very differently but the Holy Spirit has done something amazing. Over time everyone has developed a similar habit of pausing to listen.  It is so exciting.  You never know what the Holy Spirit is going to ask you to pray out so some very unexpected prayers occur.

Now I am used to how the Holy Spirit speaks to me.  I know if the same thought or scripture keeps rising up in my spirit that is where I am to focus my prayer ~ leaving room for the Holy Spirit to lead & direct.  For such a small group it can get super intense & generate a lot of power.  I am used to getting pretty clear answers but because prayer group is exactly that , group prayer, I always ask what others are getting in the Spirit.  Usually it is pretty vague.  Today it was not.  I was so excited as person after person confirmed what I was hearing.  It told me we were operating as a single body, united in the Spirit. What we were hearing was pretty exciting too but getting everyone to the place where we can allow the Spirit to work unimpeded ~ that is something worth celebrating!

We have an amazing cook in our group so when we break for morning tea it is always yummy & gives us heaps of energy to change gear & get ready for our teaching session.  I love to teach ~ though I will use anything I find: good books, you tube, dvds.  I love seeing lights go on as people grasp what it means to be doers of the word & I love seeing how lives change as they begin to apply what they have learnt.  I love when people get excited about God, who He is, what He can do.

So, yeah, Tuesdays are good days.  My very favourite.