Posted by: theacres | December 8, 2014

Difficult questions

I’ve been thinking about this all afternoon and I’m still no closer to an answer; this post is part prayer, part wonderings, part lament; so if you’re reading, bear that in mind.

We try to pray together as a family each morning, it’s nothing elaborate, the boy climbs into our bed and we give the day to God, nothing flashy, just a few words to start the day. It’s not a miracle cure and today we followed it with a stressy, shouty, morning where everyone got cross.

I picked up our four year old boy from school; he told me that a bigger boy had hit him in the yard. This is not the first time it has happened and the incident itself is probably just what happens when little kids run around mostly unattended. The really sad thing was when we told his teacher; the boy said ‘ I prayed that people would be kind and not hurt me today, and it still happened’

Gulp

What do you do?

The teacher was good, she said that sometimes even when we pray for things they don’t happen. It’s a perfectly acceptable answer, but it’s still shitty.

The grown up part of me agrees and I know that God is sovereign, but there’s another part of me that thinks ‘he’s four years old, this sucks’. He’s asking in faith and he’s been disappointed. I can’t think of how to address this with him, how do you explain that even though we pray, and we ask God for something, especially if it’s not selfish and seems perfectly reasonable, it might make no difference…

Simple childlike faith is called for in the bible, Jesus wanted the children to come to Him, Forbid them not, and yet…

The boy has taken it better than I have, he’s not mentioned it since but I’m waiting for the question, and I have no idea how to answer in a way that I really believe.

God, You are sovereign, I believe that. Sometimes I don’t think I understand You at all.

Posted by: theacres | May 8, 2013

More bimbling thoughts about church

Since my last couple of entries to this blog I’ve been giving the whole ‘church’ thing a bit more thought and prayer. Some of the blurry images are perhaps starting to form a swirly, more coherent picture. I’m not saying that it’s a pretty picture as such, or even if I’m looking in the right direction, but it’s starting to look like something…

Defining what ‘church’ means brings about nearly as many differences of opinion as there are flavours of church, but the one that’s striking me at the moment is based around the Greek word ekklesia. I’m only really speaking here with wiki-knowledge, I’m in no way an expert on Greek, or theology, or history, or indeed anything, but as far as I can glean it means a gathering or assembly (ostensibly of Greek people).

When you start looking at some of the theology behind the definition it gets really quite complicated, and in some cases, a bit pissy. The thing that strikes me about most of the definitions, and most of the presentations of the word, is that it’s people who know each other, who are gathered. It’s simple stuff that i’ve heard a million times before – church isn’t a place, or a thing, it’s a bunch of people- but it bears thinking about from time to time, lest I forget.

There’s an interesting blog by Alan Knox which states:

In some cases, the term ekklesia refers to all of God’s people which he has “assembled” or “gathered” out of the world. In other cases – most cases – the term refers to actual gatherings of God’s people, often designated by geography or location. Interestingly, in this latter case, the term ekklesia does seem to refer to subset of a larger ekklesia (i.e. the “church” in someone’s house as a subset of the “church” in a city). However, these subsets are never set against one another; they remain part of the larger ekklesia.

I have no way, without extensive study which I haven’t got the time or inclination to do, to say whether this is right or wrong, but I kinda like the sound of it. Little cells of people who are tied into a much larger body.

In my daily readings today I got to the bit where Paul talks about the body being made up of individual parts, each one distinct and with a job to do. Different jobs for different bits. They look different, they are different, but they’re all part of the body. To stretch the analogy further, the body is made up of different parts, and those parts are made up of different bits – I’m not an expert in biology, either – so you’ve got parts, of parts, of parts… …there’s probably some software development analogy here but it’s been a long time since I thought in those terms.

I digress.

We went back to our old church on Sunday for the baptism of our friends’ (j&n) icklest child, it was a bit weird but it confirmed that we’d done the right thing in leaving, even though it was hard to tell people that we were still looking. Some friends (d&a) made a return too, he’s now all dog-collared up and gave the message. It was a really good one, and it can probably be summed up in a few words. ‘Wait. Trust. God’s got a plan.’ It was a big encouragement to me, and I’m trying to believe it and trust Him.

After the service we piled round to j&n’s house for a chilli and chill out. There were loads of people there, the sun was shining, there were kids everywhere, dogs, rabbits, chilli, pimms. It was great, busy but calm. Kind of like what I think church (should I start calling it ekklesia?) should be… …maybe?

Anyway, I was talking to d&a at different times and they both mentioned ‘big church, little church‘ which was something that they were involved in when they were at college. I’ve only got what they said, and what’s on the website to go on, but it seems like a really interesting idea. Small gatherings with big backing.

Also there’s a church in our town that has packed in its Sunday morning venue and meets in people’s houses instead. Now, I’ll have to do some delving to find out if that’s an intentional thing or whether it’s because there’s only a few of them, but again it’s interesting to see.

I feel a bit encouraged that the thinking we’ve been doing isn’t entirely out there, and there are others thinking similar thoughts. It’s a work in progress, and we want to get involved with what God’s doing, not make up something ourselves.

Here are the #fivethings

1. Sunshine – I know I’ve done this one before, but it’s been SO long!
2. Sunday afternoons spent with friends
3. Finally the possible whiff of feasible promotion at work
4. Getting home from work at half four
5. The new Ghostpoet album

God bless you, thanks for reading.

Posted by: theacres | May 1, 2013

What to do about it?

The last post was getting a bit unwieldy so I thought I’d better split it out to avoid completely turning off my small but loyal readership, Jon.

Having experienced the lows and lows of church hunting, mrs the acres and I had both expressed our frustration at the established church that we were experiencing. We came out of one service and both said ‘let’s start our own church’ at pretty much the same time. It was a joke, it was a joke in poor taste. It’s incredibly arrogant of us to believe that the church is so massively off-track that we should go it alone. I even get twitchy at the church plants, that arrive in the middle of an area already plentifully blessed with congregations, and promptly set about not being ecumenical with them in any way. What gives us the exclusive line on truth, the best ideas about how it should work? We’re not special, we have no unique theological insight that’s been eluding the church since the days of the disciples.

For a few reasons we don’t want to cut ourselves off from the church, the church is too important for that. I have been thinking though…

Walking home form work I gathered my thoughts and threw them at God. It’s stuff that’s been milling around my head for a while but it all came together and flooded out. He wasn’t surprised, He’d seen it coming. I issued God a challenge, I sort of laid out a fleece, and while He may have answered, He may not have, so next time I’ll ask for the fleece to stay dry and the ground to be wet.

Tithing is not something that everyone does, it can be a bit of a contentious issue. My family does it, we give the first ten percent of our money to God. Recently I’ve felt challenged about time. Do I tithe my time? Does God get the first ten percent of that? Realistically? No, He doesn’t. My first inclination for the last couple of years is to go back to sleep whenever I can, so the challenge remains.

Why not tithe a Sunday?
If relationship with people is important why don’t we bring back the sabbath in a different way. Let’s rest WITH people. I quite like the idea of church being the whole day, where people pitch up in the morning, hang out, worship, eat lunch together, talk about God, talk about life, share their days with each other. Pray. Go home when it gets too much for the kids, or the adults. Maybe one or two stay and watch antiques roadshow and play the ‘guess how much’ game on the red button, have a glass of wine and a deep conversation.

I’m sure you’ll agree that our faith is so much more when it’s not confined to 1030 – 1200 on a Sunday. If we were to break that out into the whole day, maybe it wold spill over into Monday and people might pop round to each others’ houses for a cuppa and a chat about things that they heard yesterday and had been mulling over. Or a text or a Facebook message to say that the thing that they’d asked for prayer on had been sorted. Or it hadn’t yet, so please keep praying.

It really surprises me to say this, but I have this slightly weird desire that it would become the norm to come home and find my house empty. This wouldn’t be unusual. I’d put my bag down and walk over to our friends’ house and find my wife and son sat around the dining table having tea with them. I’d pull up a chair and join them. Or on another day I’d come home and find a bunch of our friends laughing as they sit in our garden, drinking pimms and enjoying the sunshine. Maybe it’s a bit fromagery but a song could come on the radio (God bless #ucb and #premier) and we’d all start singing in worship, or someone would rock up to the piano and belt something out…

Maybe that’s too idealistic and I know that I’d need to relax a lot, and be considerably less grumpy before it could become a reality. I wonder whether the shared-sunday is a model of church that could work? If the venue is relaxed and the company is good and people are excited to be there then that’s got to be a good start, surely? I don’t know what Jesus would have done, what the disciples did when they met together, this sounds like fun though, doesn’t it?

The danger is that it becomes a nice, cliquey little club, that God doesn’t get a look in. How would one balance it? How do you make sure that more often than not there’s some God content in there? How does this cosy get together reach out and tell people that they need Forgiveness?

I’m no longer interested in giving it a name, but I am interested in having the backing of Godly and wise people who will be on hand if things start getting difficult. I’m all for freedom but like jazz, it sounds so much sweeter if you’ve all got a grasp of the fundamentals, you can improvise when you know the theory and have practiced it. Without a solid grounding it just becomes a shambles, and it falls apart.

If we were to do it on our own, or with a few friends I’m not confident it would work. This isn’t a false humility thing, I know deep down that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in isolation where God’s involved. Why would He give this ‘vision’ to us as an exclusive little party? No, that doesn’t feel like the God I love? He’d want something that gets people involved, that goes off hunting for that lost coin, and rejoices when it’s found.

Lord God, how much of this is me, and how much is You? Please help us to know, and please give us the courage to act when yo ask us to act and to get over ourselves when we’re off-course.

Amen.

Finally haven’t forgotten the #fivethings:

1. Sunshine – I’ve missed you, old friend
2. Setting the alarm for 0700 – I never thought I’d consider that a luxury
3. The beasting I got from Oli yesterday, mountain biking up and down a steep hill, on a ‘easy ride’
4. My health
5. My wife – I’m more in love with her now that I’ve ever been

Posted by: theacres | May 1, 2013

Church hunting – Bonkers or boring

It’s been a lovely sunny day, the wife has gone out with friends and the boy’s fast asleep, so it’s time to get blogging.

A couple of months ago, my family and I left our church. It wasn’t a easy decision and we’d been thinking and praying about it for at least a year, if not more. I served on the leadership, mrs the acres had been involved in running the prayer activities and in crèche, I spoke a couple of times per term, played in the band, the whole shebang. For all intents and purposes we were settled, we were part of the church.

There was a sense of unease, we knew that something wasn’t right. It was the church that we’d started attending after we got married, we knew loads of people, but could we honestly say that we had ‘relationship’ with people?

It’s not my intention to write a piece that critiques the church we were in, there were lovely people there, it is exactly the right church for a lot of them, and God has and will do great things through the church.

It wasn’t for us any more. We both come from mixed backgrounds when it comes to churches, both attending fairly Pentecostal, charismatic places at various times, but with a smattering of traditional church thrown in too. We were surprised that we’d ended up in the the CofE and struggled with some of its traditions. The time was right to move.

I resigned form the leadership and we fulfilled our duties for a time so as not to leave anyone in the lurch and then we set sail into the wild waters of church hunting.

What were we looking for? Hard to say really, we wanted somewhere where God was, and where He wanted us to be first and foremost. A true sense of community was important, people often say that church is their family and we wanted to experience that in action rather than in words. We wanted passionate, lively, enthusiastic worship, good strong teaching and the feeling of excitement about church that made us wake up on a Sunday morning and go ‘great, it’s Sunday, we’re looking forward to going to church’.

As we visited a number of different churches over the weeks we started to notice a pattern. You can have lively, enthusiastic, passionate worship (and I’m not just talking about music here, it’s a general buzz, an atmosphere of excitement) but from our observation that comes at the expense of something.
In some places it’s the welcome… We went to a couple of places where we’ve been made it feel utterly miserable because no one seems remotely interested that we’re there. Ok there may be reasons or excuses for that, but still, if we were unchurched we’d be reluctant to come back to an organisation that can’t even be arsed to say hello!
In other paces it’s the theology. Once you scratch the surface of what they’re professing you realise that there were some pretty bonkers ideas going on. ‘Name it and claim it’ prosperity leanings are still alive and well, people. Heavy shepherding is still squeezing the life out of people and controlling them. While I recognise that these interpretations of scripture work well for some, it’s not our bag baby.

Jesus is the starting point, if we acknowledge that it’s Him who paid the price for us, it’s Him and only Him who can bring us to the Father then we’re talking the same language, however neither mrs the acres or I are comfortable in an environment where you have to sign up to a great long list of shizzle before you can be considered one of the club. Again I don’t want to be critical, there are some who find this reassuring and it’s as valid a viewpoint as the traditions that have grown up in all of the recognised denominations, but like i said, it really isn’t our bag, baby.

On the flip side to this is where we go to a church where the theology sits more comfortably, there’s a welcome, there’s community, there’s well-thought out biblical teaching, but where’s the excitement? Where are the people who are so bursting with the Holy Spirit that they have to belt out the songs, regardless of whether they’re Matt Redman or Charles Wesley? ( I might have to come back to my current thinking on modern worship on another occasion) I’ve no doubt that there are people who are bursting with life in these churches; it all seems a little bit too white, middle class, ENGLISH. Come on people, let’s strip down to our pants and have a boogie! Let’s have an enormous shaven headed guy funking out on the bass, sweating proudly as he worships the Lord with a tight groove.

Bonkers, or boring. That’s your choice.

We don’t want to settle for that. We want to be excited about the good things God’s doing, we want to feel His love for us and for others, we want to know that when we balls up someone’s going to love us and not condemn us. We want to wake up on a Sunday morning and go ‘great, it’s Sunday, we’re looking forward to going to church’.

So why is it so hard to find the balance?

Posted by: theacres | April 8, 2013

Spring harvest 2012 vs 2013

Come with me back in time, a year or there abouts to Easter 2012. Mrs TheAcres and I decided that we we proper Christians if we’d never been to Spring Harvest so booked it, packed it and … Got in the car and drove to minehead. There was more to it than that, we had been thinking about the church we were worshipping in and church in general, where God wanted us, what God wanted from us, and about the whole shebang. The theme in 2012 was ‘church actually’ and it seemed to fit in with what we’d been thinking.

Day 1, we arrived, registered the boy at the crèche and watched the evening service on the telly in our chalet. The boy needed a nappy change and while I was doing that on the living room floor he rolled over (annoying!) and looked at the telly. ‘They singin’ ’bout Jesus’ he said, we were pretty impressed!

Day 2 was good, we went to the bible reading, enjoyed the site, and went about normal business. That night however I was violently sick until I had nothing left to give. Mrs TA took the boy to his group as normal the next day as neither we’re showing any signs of poorliness and I was fairly sure it was food poisoning. Someone got wind of the fact that I was poorly and shopped us to butlins. We were told that we all had to stay in the chalet for 48 hours or go home. With a toddler there was only one option realistically so we went home, utterly gutted, deeply annoyed and spiritually deflated.

Roll on a year and we stupidly bravely decided we’d give it another go. I’m so glad we did, it was thought provoking, humbling and challenging. The theme this year was ‘be, say, do’, I went to the daily bible readings led by Gerard Kelly (@twitturgies on twitter) and some of the stuff he said really hit me. For a while now I’ve been conscious of the fact that I’m too angry with the boy and Gerard spoke wisdom when he said that first children are like icebreakers, crashing through the pack ice, finding out the areas of your life where God’s got some work to do. This hit home. The thing to remember though – as we came back to time and again in the 1 John study – we’re all broken, we’re all unfinished, and God loves us. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus in human form to allow us to be forgiven. Better than that, we ARE forgiven, God’s already done it, we just need to accept it.

Amazing stuff! I prayed that God would show me why I get angry and impatient with the boy, and I think that things have been a bit better. It’s definitely a work in progress though.

Other cool things were hearing the excellent Rob Parsons of @Care4theFamily speak so passionately, going to a gig featuring @RealTimVine and @TheArchini, and taking the boy swimming for the first time. All good.

Someone, Gerard again I think, said that if we’re all made in God’s image it’s possible to be inspired by the most unlikely things, because there’s God in them somewhere. I like this, it chimes with experiences I’ve had, for example, the film Donnie darko taught me a lot about God’s relationship with time. Today I was inspired by the music of @michaelkiwanuka. Really soulful, and i could interpret the lyrics in a way that easily pointed to God. I don’t know if he’s got his baggage on the gospel train or not, but he surely writes some fine tunes.

Coming back home’s been a bit of a bump, but hopefully the things we’ve heard will stick with us, and make a difference in how we live our lives. We’re praying that we find a new church soon, but more on that in the next instalment.

FAIL! I’m editing to include the thing I was making notes on through the day. Each time I write this I want to put #fivethings that I’m thankful for, so here goes.

1. Bambara groundnut – trying new foods is great, especially when they’re served with fried plantain
2. Family – we spent the weekend with family, everyone mucking in, laughter, too much good food and it was great to see the boy playing so well with his cousins
3. @howies – they make such pretty things, and now they’re producing cycle specific clothing. PTL! Now, how does one go about getting a pay rise?
4. A washing machine that works
5. Spring harvest

Posted by: theacres | April 8, 2013

Spring harvest reflections

The other day it occurred to me that I hadn’t blogged on here in ages, which is pretty shoddy on my behalf.

A few things have inspired me to get back on the keyboard and put down some thoughts. Hopefully by listing them on this relaunch post it’ll keep me honest and inspire to write more than one thing, so here goes.

10resolutions blog
Home for good
Spring harvest (2012 vs 2013)
Changing churches – boring or bonkers?
What is church for?

Maybe I’ll combine some of these, almost definitely the first two, but there’s enough there to be getting on with.

Before getting on to the meaty stuff in later posts, here’s a brief run down of what’s happening in our lives. The boy is now two and half, he’s great and very hard work at times. We’ve left our church and are looking for a new one (which will be explained in a letter post). Apart from that, much is the same.

Right – it’s a daddy day today so I’d better get on with entertaining the child. A walk to the postbox first, methinks.

Posted by: theacres | August 18, 2011

News roundup

Well, the boy is in his cot and relatively quiet, TLL is out at a prayer meeting and I’ve caught up on my daily bible readings.  I’ve got some time to do a bit of bloggery, so here goes.

It’s been ages since I posted anything and that’s because I’ve been busy doing all sorts, including flirting with other blogs.  I never said this would be an exclusive blog relationship, I’m sorry if you thought it would be.  I didn’t mean to deceive you…

Anyway, there are some fun things happening and I’ll start with family life.  The boy is now well and truly established as a one year old.  He marked his birthday by taking his first unassisted steps (in crèche at church), He’s also started at the child-minders, got over another tummy bug, become even more willful than he was before, and is astoundingly, astoundingly cute.

His talking is coming along at an incredible pace, I keep getting surprised at how much he understands.  He’s doing all sorts of things like “hi” and “bye” complete with waves, he’ll say “down down” when he’s had enough cuddles, “more” with an approximate appropriate Makaton sign for when he’s still hungry (which is a lot of the time). That’s just some of it, I guess I’m being a standard Dad in thinking that he’s amazing, but He’s Amazing.  I can’t believe how much of  a little person he’s becoming!

It’s still not easy though.  Sleep can be an issue in that he refuses to go to sleep sometimes, in the day and at night. Once he is down he’s out for the count at night now and we’re getting 11 or 12 hour stretches, that lessens if he decides to shout for an hour though!  TLL is trying to adjust to working three days a week – I’m trying to adjust to looking after him for one day a week (three for the next couple of weeks as the CM is on holiday), which brings me to…

Daddy Days.  I’ve had this boy on my own for monday and today and will have him tomorrow too.  He’s been really good, a pickle at times, but good fun.  We’ve not quite got the hang of doing fun stuff yet, it’s been a couple of trips to town and some playing in the lounge mostly but he seems to have enjoyed himself.  I wondered how I’d cope with it all, so I spent some time praying about it. I got the feeling that God has allowed me to have this opportunity and that it’s something a lot of Dad’s aren’t able to do, so I’m trying to chill out and enjoy it.  So far that’s almost working. I got a bit stressy when he wouldn’t go to sleep on monday afternoon, but then decided ‘what can I do about it? nothing’ so just got on with it. I’d still really appreciate any prayers people can send up for us all.  Being the family that God wants us to be is foremost in my mind at the moment.  I think we’re falling short of the mark in some areas (mostly me) and I’d like to allow God to change that.  thanks

It’s good this Dad lark, we get to hang out as boys and laugh when one of us farts.  Brilliant! Sadly he poo-ed and was stinky so I missed what happened at the end of ZIngzillas.  They were going to catch a boat from the island and go on tour, but Tang didn’t want to go.  He went to the glade (accompanied by Alan ‘DJ Loose’ Sugar) and listened to a guy playing bottleneck blues.  That’s as far as I got. Did they do the big zing on the island at coconut number four? or did they go on tour? can anyone enlighten me?

Moving on.  I’ve not become entirely mental, I do still have a grown up life.  Street Pastors has continued apace. Although we’ve not really had any major incidents while on shift there have been numerous encouraging conversations with people.  It’s still really obvious that God is using the teams as a total blessing for people, whether or not they remember the conversations in any detail.  It’s all planting seeds, which someone else can harvest.

I was asked to be a teamleader too, which was exciting.  I prayed about it and felt that God was saying ‘go for it’.  I did the training last week and will be hitting the streets in my TL capacity tomorrow night.  The biggest blessing is that I get to stay with my existing brilliant team.  We’re supposed to have two TLs on each shift and we’ve been operating with just one.  I’ll be stepping up tot fill the other spot, which is reassuring because our current TL is great.  She’s got the right heart for this, and I only hope I can emulate her in that respect. We’ll no doubt do things differently, and with God’s help that will be complimentary.

 

That’ll do for now.  more updates over the weekend with a writeup of friday night’s antics.  There might be a few A levellers out, unless they’re all out tonight.

STOP PRESS: The boy’s asleep. <phew>

Posted by: theacres | June 26, 2011

A rainy night in street-pastor-ville

Rain was coming down in a steady stream as i left the house for my street pastors’ shift, the waterproof trousers were definitely going to be required!

The rain came and went and came back again throughout the night and we all got a good soaking at some point, but there were a remarkably large amount of people out in town, possibly due to A levels coming to an end.  We had numerous encounters with people and each those encounters seemed to take a long time.  There were the two girls who were very worse for wear, one of whom had fallen over while “getting  aquainted” with an even more drunken gent.  They both knocked their heads against a lamppost, but were both unharmed. The other guys on the shift talked to the two girls, while one of them sat on the kerb, and  vommited into the drain.

The precarious nature of their, and the other street pastors’ position prompted me to position myself a bit further down the road to warn taxi drivers and other road users about the danger.  Everyone ended up safe, thank God, when the girls convinced a taxi driver to take them home.

The night wore on and it continued in  similar vein,  nothing momentous happened other than a chp who wanted a big argument about theology.  Fortunately by this time we’d got all six of us out, so he didn’t monopolise all of us. Water and flip-flops (snazzy SP branded ones, no less) were given out to grateful people, and we helped sort out a situation where two girls (sisters?) we fighting.  Their dad came to came to collect them after the taxi marshals intervened.

All in all a busier night than we expected but everyone did a jolly good job.

Posted by: theacres | May 29, 2011

compare and contrast

Another Friday night street pastoring in town didn’t bring about any major incidents, but it did give us time to have some interesting conversations. Some of them were quite involved and a subset were thought provoking and have made me ponder over the last few days.  It occurred to me that some were opposites, but shared common themes.

The team was slightly depleted due to illness, so the five Street Pastors hit the town as a posse, this meant that we had to be a bit cautious about not appearing to be too much of a gang as we went around.

We were crossing the beer gardens when one of the team spotted a Blackberry on the floor.  We wondered what to do with it and were in the process of dialing a likely number when the phone rang.  It turned out that a young person had lost it in the park and one of their friends was calling to see if it had been found.  It was one of us who spotted to it first so an RV was arranged for a few minutes later.  While the other trio went to find the owner, we got into a conversation with a young man just a few yards away.  He’d met with SPs previously and had been telling his friends about them.  He explained to us that they had been hanging around the gardens because they were too young to get “in” anywhere and the police were paying them unwanted attention.  After speaking to us he promised he’d tell his friends that we were nothing to do with the police and if they needed help they could call on us.

Now we come to the first set of contrasts.  We’d taken a slightly unusual route and checked out an area we don’t usually go to. As we were walking back towards town we met a gentleman who was eager to find out what we were doing, and why.  He told us that he’d been a reiki practitioner for over twenty years – he believed that it was Jesus practiced reiki in order to heal people.  As we spoke he told us that he was a spiritual man who believed that “love” was the most powerful force in the world an that was his view of what god was.  He was looking for some way to volunteer and make a difference to people’s lives.  He’d been offered an opportunity to go overseas  and build an orphanage.  From the things he said, he was basically looking for someone to tell him what decision to make, to give him some direction. We said we weren’t able to provide that, but we knew someone who could.

He then told us that his wife was (or had been) a Christian.  Her father had been a church warden and had abused her when she was a child.  He said that he was unable to use the name of Jesus in connection with his beliefs because of that, because of what people had done and used his name.  As Rob Bell says in Love Wins, he’d met a Jesus that wasn’t the one i know.  We spoke for a while longer and he was grateful for it.  He said how much he appreciated what we did, and wished us well.  We prayed as we walked away that he would come to know the Real Jesus.

I compare that encounter to one later in the evening.  We were called over to a group of three girls and two guys, one of the girls wanted a pair of flip-flops. One of the guys then started quizzing us,  asking if we believed in God, and if we did, could we name all the books of the Bible?  During the conversation that followed he told us that he had been a criminal since he was twelve years old and claimed that at some point he had broken into a vicarage, where he found porn mags.  “How do you explain that, street pastors?”   We said that people are all human, and we all make mistakes.  I thought at the time “maybe you’ve met the wrong Jesus”

The guy continued to question us, he said that he had a faith and could name all of the books in his holy literature, he was confrontational and at times abusive and rude, to my eyes he was trying to belittle us in front of the girls (who incidentally were trying to stop him being rude to us, so i don’t think it was working), and also to provoke a reaction from us.  He wanted to test our knowledge of the bible, and asked us what the passage about it being “harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of the needle”.  As it happens i was reading my son a story just hours earlier which explained that the “eye of the needle” was a gate in a city’s wall, and told this guy as much  The guy on the street said he was impressed with us knowing that.

He was clearly an intelligent young man, he was articulate and seemed to have a good reserve of knowledge. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he was confrontational and abusive.  Nevertheless, we pray that he encounters the Real Jesus. Hopefully our conduct and restraint will have made an impression on a young man with potential.

As we walked away he was shouting after us that he was a drug dealer and he made a great deal of money every day, he pulled something out of his pocket to prove this fact, it may have been a wad of notes, but from where i stood it looked like receipts.  Perhaps the dealing world has got more professional of late… i don’t know how much of what he told us was true, how much he actually believed and how much was front.  It doesn’t matter, God was with us, and he helped us find answers. We pray that they were the right ones.

Later in the night we saw our next two contrasts.  One young lady was clearly distressed and was being talked to by a group of guys.  We went over to see if we could help.  It turned out that she had lost her iPhone and her world had ended as a result.  She was acting very distressed and cast the contents of her bag asunder a couple of times.  The guys were gentlemanly and helped get all her stuff back together, cash, cards, etc.  We saw that she had enough money for a fairly lengthy taxi ride if required.  We asked if there was anything we could do to help, she ranted and raved and said there was nothing anyone could do because she’d lost her phone and everything was finished.  Was there anyone we could ring to come and help her out? She shouted a name a couple of times, but wasn’t able to give us the number.  We established that her phone had been insured and could be replaced the next day, she had enough money to get home, and she wasn’t in so bad a condition as to be unable to remember where that was.

We had a conflab with the other SPs, during which the girl tore off and threw back a cardigan to one of the guys.  She wasn’t wearing a great deal underneath it, but apparently that’s how she’d started the evening.  Ultimately she refused our help and went off in a taxi with the guys – she knew one of their sisters, it transpired.  Our offers to help were thrown back at us, and she was quite rude at times.  i was uneasy at the time about the way it panned out, but looking back i feel that she was possibly attention seeking.  A lost phone had caused a lot of grief. i pray she got home safely and without anything to regret.

The contrast to this was another young lady we met at nearly 0400.  She was with friends, and again not wearing a great deal.  The other crew engaged her and spent some time searching through her bag and belongings.  We went over because there was a call on the radio that a passport had been left at a fast food joint, we thought it might be hers.  It wasn’t, she’d lost her bank card.  Much searching ensued, we revisted the cashpoint she’d been to earlier to no avail, and started to hunt up and down the high street.  She was upset, but it was getting to the point where we could probably help her no more.  We suggested that she cancel her card when she got home and order a new one.

A group of guys stopped us to say that they thought we were doing a great job and we should keep it up.  High fives all round. At that very point i looked down and there, directly at my feet was a cashcard.  Praise God! We checked with the young lady, and she gave us the right name from the card.  We returned it to much thanks, God made a difference in that girl’s life that night.  We pray that she doesn’t forget.

People meet Jesus at different times and in different ways.  Sometimes it’s really Him, but other times it’s not the Jesus I’d recognise.  This street pastors shift has reinforced to me that you never really know where someone is with God, and that’s fine.  We shouldn’t treat people any differently regardless.  Whether they’re peaceful or abusive, appreciative or dismissive, God loves them all.  I pray that i am able to too.

Posted by: theacres | April 24, 2011

love wind

Bit of a comedy mishearing for the title, but it’ll do.

a few days back i went to hear Rob Bell speak. It was pretty much a tour to promote his new book “Love Wins“, but it actually turned out to be a pretty decent talk even without reading the book yet.

image of the audience for love wins

If you look carefully you can see me, or more precisely my bright orange tee-shirt.

Anyway, i initially thought i’d write a few of my thoughts about what Rob said, and the answers he gave to the questions he was asked, but i’ve changed my mind. Yet.

Basically Mr. Bell gave a simple gospel message, all the controversy has been a bit unfounded. He wasn’t saying anything that hasn’t been said before. Importantly he’s had the grace to admit that he, the ‘great Rob Bell’ doesn’t have all the answers! shock, horror, awe.

We could, as Christians, do with a bit more of that i think. We’ve got access to the Truth, but we don’t necessarily all have the right idea about what that truth is. The powerful part of what Christ taught is that it’s His love that makes the difference, not our efforts, or any complicated theological shizzle.

I shall be hunting down a copy of the book soon, and will then report back in more detail!

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