Friday, 25 February 2011

He who has ears to hear

I spent today with my oldest friend. We’ve known each other since we were wee four year olds without a care in the world. When we were about fourteen our lives went down different paths; or rather I should say, that I took a diversion sign-posted ‘Jesus’. I hadn’t been seeking a road to spiritual enlightenment, but just happened by a lucky chance to stumble across this narrow pathway I might have easily missed, and, too curious to pass by, I took the detour. Today as we met up almost eight years on, here in my current whereabouts, Leiden, we updated each other on the goings on in our lives since our last meeting, almost two years ago.

I don’t necessarily realise how much I talk about God. To me it’s natural. He’s with me in the morning, throughout the day, before I go to bed and as I came to appreciate recently, in my dreams (more on that later). I’m just so used to God. He’s my reality and more than that, He’s the most important person in my life and the person I put my trust in, worries to, and direct both my frustration and happiness towards. But my friend said to me today as I was recounting stories, ‘Do you not think you’re reading God too much into everything? I mean what do you think?’ I guess I had just told her about how I felt like God wanted me to move to the Netherlands, God had provided the finances and how I wasn’t sure what God wanted next. From her point of view, I guess it seems like I’ve been taken over to a certain degree and that I should step up, make my own decisions and not let someone else (if indeed God isn’t a mere figment of my imagination) take the reins. ‘You think about God too much Nay’. The thing is, I don’t think I think about God nearly enough.

God isn’t just the object of my religion, which I have fanatically taken to the extreme. I wouldn’t even consider myself a religious person – religion stinks for the most part. But God is more real to me than my own hands! I am sure to the depth of my battered and fragile soul that He’s there and not just there as if He was outside and beyond me, but that He’s here with me, next to me, within me by His Spirit. This sounds weird? I’d probably think the same if I was still on the same road my friend and I both started out on. She asked me today, ‘But how come it works out for you? Why don’t other people see this stuff? Isn’t it coincidence?’

It’s true we’ll never completely escape the subjectivity of personal experience and I can’t prove to you that my landing £10,000 by a non-law-of-nature-breaking-means two weeks before I moved to the Netherlands (completely covering costs that I was in no state to even scrape towards otherwise) was any more than lucky coincidence. But rather than thank my lucky stars, I have attributed it all to a God that I believe loves me and knows my name and had the logistics worked out and a redemptive plan ready to execute when I unsuspectedly turned in front of a fast-moving car as a starry-eyed eighteen year old new driver and obliterated my parent’s car and almost one of my best friends.

My interpretation: “I’ve got that covered” God must have thought as He saw me beside myself with hysteria, anxiety crippling my lungs at the fear that I had killed my passengers. But four years on, my friend who was badly injured has been miraculously healed of her injuries, met this God for herself and as a result half-funded my year here with the compensation from the accident, which she wanted to use for God’s purposes. Pretty sweet turn of events. Coincidence?

The Bible says, he who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matt 11:15).

I can’t help but chuckle. So I told you we’d return to the dreams. Well the other day, I dreamt that God gave me some words that He wanted me to tell a friend of mine. When I woke up in the morning, I could remember them word for word, an uncommon experience, but although I wrote them down, I decided this was probably just me reading too much into things again. You’ve all been bored by a friend recalling an incoherent and in your eyes insignificant dream. Well I put this dream on the don’t send-them-all-to-sleep shelf until the next morning when the said friend came on facebook and I just felt an urge to tell him after all. With the caveat that I might have an overactive imagination, I hesitantly shared with him the words that I felt God wanted him to hear. ‘No way. I was praying last night and felt God say the exact same thing to me’ was his response. Flippin’ crazy, I’m no Mystic Meg.

But then it dawned on me that in the same dream, God revealed to me that another friend had something up with her ears and that I should pray for healing for her. So following the confirmation that my dreams were at least freakishly accurate if not God-inspired I took a stab in the dusk and asked my mate if she had anything up with her ears. Without confusedly remarking on the oddity of my question, she nonchalantly tells me that she thinks she has an ear infection. I told her that was weird as I had had this dream and would she like me to pray for her. Yes she would. We meet up and I pray. Her ears get better. Earie business.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this all. Perhaps the Dutch air is making me dizzee. If you’ve got ears to hear though, take out the plugs of preconception and let ‘em hear a new song, which might seem a bit bonkers. It’s rocking my socks off.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Divine Romance

When I first decided to follow Jesus, I remember feeling like my eyes had been opened up to a whole new world where anything was possible. I went from resignedly wondering ‘is this it?’ about my meagre existence, to a giddy excitement; the kind that a novel romance might conjure up.

But starting my relationship with Jesus didn’t just make me feel better looking, more interesting or more desirable than I had without him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I did feel damn special and pretty significant all of a sudden, but this divine romance effortlessly thwarted the menial butterflies of school-fling-frolics and utterly changed my outlook on life. Now I was day dreaming about what l automatically assumed was bound to be an adventure. It had to be right, anything is possible for God.

This is what I pondered the most. Excitement is an understatement. What I started to read in my Bible (which I desired to read even more than I had used to desire to read and reread soppy texts during the pastimes that they cluttered my inbox) was that Jesus was absolutely wonderful and through his father God could do anything. I was particularly captured by the fact that he healed everyone he saw. Wow, this is the guy that has pursued me, died for me and who takes the blame for the bad stuff I have done, so that I also get to call his father ‘dad’(Matthew 6:9). This is the guy that said I am not a servant but can call him ‘friend’ (John 15:15). I was obsessed by what being the daughter of God and friend of Jesus might mean for me.

Think about a person that is special to you. Perhaps you sent them a card today or maybe you are feeling a little disappointed that you would have liked to receive a card from them. Whether it’s love or strong admiration you feel, it can be so wonderful, allowing that significant other to consume your waking thoughts... What makes them happy? What makes them sad? Where would their perfect day be spent? What do they love doing? Do they enjoy the rain? What are their dreams? Do they think about me? Where will they end up in life?

I have been to the heights of loved-up. It can be pretty breath-taking. Perhaps you’re on the lovey peak of Everest today, but you know you could be up a mountain that would make a molehill out of your summit. I’m talking about Jesus. He promises so much more than a string of great dates, so much more than a great sex life, so much more than an exotic holiday, a white wedding, 4 bedroom detached house and kids, and so much more than a great job and a golden Labrador! None of these things are bad by the way, but they’re not the ultimate sources of satisfaction in life either. When I started to spend my thoughts on Jesus I felt more fulfilled and enchanted than ever before. No guy could cast this spell.

I am daily in awe of him, he is better, more glorious and lovely than I can grasp and anything is possible for him, and through him, for me! I am so excited about our future together. I can only faintly imagine what he might have in store for me.

Perhaps today is a sensitive day for you. Maybe you are dissatisfied in your relationship, maybe you are jealous of your friends that they're in one and you’re not, or you are feeling worthless and unattractive. Whichever category you fall into, Jesus is crazy about you and would love to invite you into (or continue) a divine romance with him. Let him sweep you off your feet. His arms are open wide and chocolate, roses or even an engagement ring were not enough to show it - he gave his very life in love for you. He promises only good to you. He is faithful and won’t get bored. He is exciting and abundant in love. He is crazy about you and relentlessly pursuing you. Why don’t you give him a try? He might be the best valentine’s offer you have ever had.


Thursday, 3 February 2011

A church plant?

I realise that several of my blogs have a) been a bit angsty and b) been a bit me, me, me. I’m sure my initial motivation for setting this blog up was to encourage you dear reader (excuse the period drama speak) about my amazing God and tell you about the adventure of planting a church. It has occurred to me that I have said little about this church-planting malarkey and some of you still remain in the ‘unknow’ about what I am actually doing.

In fact I’m sure over Christmas a few people asked how the church I’m building was going. Such has been my ambiguity, that some of you think me heroic enough to be part of a building project. Let me clarify, once and for all, that I am not involved in physically resurrecting a church.

To dispel another myth that none of you have been sheepish enough to query, I am not physically planting a church either. Hopefully you will have by now realised that this is a metaphor, even if you couldn’t quite work out what it implied. They plant a lot of tulips over here, but to my knowledge church bulbs are as of yet, unavailable, even in the Netherlands. Apologies for the confusing terminology that Christians have chosen to adopt here. The term ‘church plant’ is a metaphor alluding presumably to the fact that when you start a church from scratch it begins small and formless like a wee-seedling and then becomes a massive sunflower, bush, tree [insert your favourite foliage in here].

So I am in Holland planting a church, which means in plain English, that I am part of a team of people who have moved to The Hague to start meeting together to worship Jesus and we hope that by starting jobs, university courses here and getting involved around our neighbourhoods and with activities that float our respective boats that we will befriend people, introduce them to our amazing God and then flourish into a wonderful church (photosynthesis galore) as more people decide to join us. There are currently over 40 of us meeting on a Sunday, but the number seems to be creeping up weekly.

We don’t have our own building yet and are renting another church’s hall, but in mid-March we are hoping to move more centrally into The Hague, we’ll possibly be renting a theatre, but we are still waiting on God for this. Where we meet isn’t the most important thing though, we just want to be somewhere with space for all our activities and somewhere that’s really easy for everyone to get to.

Our desire as a church will be to see new people meet and glorify Jesus and as they do to see the city of The Hague blessed as lives are restored, broken relationships are reconciled, the sick are healed and for God’s love and joy to reign in our lives. It’s also our desire to be a multicultural and economically diverse church, which truly reflects God’s heart for all people.

There’s one final thing to clear up. Some of you seem to think that I am working for the church. This is not true per se. I am here simply as a regular member, but we are all needed to make church happen. We each are essential to meet invite our friends and people we meet to church (or Chris, our leader, would be preaching to empty chairs), but we are also needed to make church practically happen (serving tea and coffee, helping out with the kids’ work, playing in the worship group, welcoming people etc.) When I’m not at church (which is most of the time) I am still loving and worshipping Jesus, but in a different way. The Bible says that we should offer our whole lives to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). I do this in Leiden mostly as I enjoy my MA course, rowing and spending time with all the wonderful people I have met so far.

Hope that clears things up a little. I’ll keep you posted with our progress as a church, as well of course as with my personal adventures. And any questions - just whack ‘em in my direction!