Thursday, 9 July 2020

His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven


 

  


Every now and then you are lucky enough to get a glimpse of His Kingdom on earth. I know, a few times a year I walk away from a space and feel that. I am sure if feels different for everyone, as I surely don’t have a monopoly on what His Kingdom on earth or in heaven might look like. For me, it feels like a glimpse of something so beautiful, that you think ‘wow’, if this is good, what must heaven feel like?


Last Sunday morning in our faith community gathering, there were no bells, no whistles, no slick presentations or productions. But as an intergenerational faith community gathering there was something that happened in the room because of the people who were in it and the way we gathered, that enriched my soul to its very core. I left feeling like I had just glimpsed “his Kingdom on earth.”

There were stories shared, struggles felt, there was food, fun, worship and prayer. The youngest led us in prayer, the youth shared visions and the old dreamed dreams.

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams". (Acts 2:17)

I wished I had recorded it, but the feeling of being there will stay with me for a long while. There is something very powerful when a space is created that is safe to simply be yourself. A placed where you feel loved and seen.

I loved seeing the youth leaders empowering the kids to pray for them. I loved seeing many bringing their gifts and serving the body of Christ. I loved seeing the ease with which people felt welcomed and the joy of the conversations being had. I loved to hear those who are not always so confident, taking the time to really consider what they wanted to share. I loved seeing a father, publicly commend and value her daughter. I loved the honesty with which he shared his struggles and joys. I loved listening to one of our eldest share with tears, her deep love for her heavenly father and implore us all to read His word as she led us in communion.

"You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the messianic meal” (Luke 6:20)

I never want to take for granted the richness of faith community and the strength it brings to my daily walk of faith. Sunday was how it should be : one cooks, one sings, one loves and cares for another, one sees one’s pain, one sits alongside, one listens, many share, many pray, many love … all sharing what we have.

“They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In the midst of COVID-19 it has never been so rich. In a community where much pain and loss is happening, His Kingdom is so real.

“You are blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s Kingdom is there for the finding.” (Luke 6:19)

I walked up to Ruth (our sage) who shared, wanting to simply say thank you. I stepped into a conversation she was having with a young adult. I listened as she spoke to this young woman, telling her that whenever you speak, you are not looking to please anyone but God and the place to really know Him is in the word.

“There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests. Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke:26)

I watched this young lady absorb every word and my heart leapt as I watched His Kingdom come again.

I remembered in Luke 6 when people said of Jesus, “Every was trying to touch him … so much energy surging from Him.” I feel that with Ruth, that energy surging from her from the Father. Not only do I want to be like her when I grow up, but I never want to waste a moment when in the presence of such Godly, yet humble servants like Ruth.

Later that young adult shared with me how Ruth’s word confirmed a prophecy spoken over her last year and that she realised in the midst of COVID and family issues pressing in on her she had forgotten God’s words.

And this is only what I saw God doing last Sunday. I am sure He was doing much more.

Scripture was being lived out, as ‘Acts’ had been my reading that week and all our midweek clusters are studying Luke together. Watching His word, his people and his love converge and spread throughout the morning, brought His Kingdom on earth for just a moment.

I thank God for the Community I get to do life with and pray that we never take for granted how rich it is.

I know it is not what people want to hear or learn, when people ask me “what does an Intergenerational Community look like?” They are looking for programs to implement, systems to put into place, worship service outlines they can duplicate. So often we want to complicate it, but once true love and life together gains momentum, you get to sit back and watch it happen, like I did last Sunday, and simply thank God that you had eyes to see and ears to hear His Kingdom come.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

A Virus put us in "Time out"...

A Virus put us in “Time out.” What are we going to learn in there?



When my kids were little we had a “time out’ system. If they had done the wrong thing, or things really got out of control l would send them to “time out”. I am pretty sure it is standard practice in most households. It is a time when you must be isolated, on your own and have time to think, re-think and calm down. There was always accountability connected to it, with an expectation that your behaviour would change, and of course be better than when you were first sent to this space. I found it a very powerful tool for all involved, including me, the parent. Sometimes you really need to be able to have some space to stop and think about how you should proceed, so it brings us closer together and not further apart.

To be honest, at any age of life, this is a good practice to live by. It is just when children are young and they don't have the self-control or self-discipline to manage this process, that the ‘supposed’ more mature ones help create this boundary for them. As the parent I had been known to put myself into ‘time out’ and leave the kids to their own devices, which often had some interesting outcomes.

Deuteronomy 6 speaks of how we are to live our lives in abundance and in reverence to God. The famous promise is outlined to “Love God, your God, with your whole heart: Love Him with all that’s in you. Love Him with all you’ve got” (Deut 6:5 MSG).

Then because He knew we would forget it, He gave four keys to get it inside your hearts. He commanded that we: Talk about it wherever you are, sitting at home, walking in the street, talk about it in the morning, when you rise and the in the evening when you fall into bed. Place reminders wherever you can to make sure it happens. (v 6-9)

In this pandemic all we really have is our sitting at home, walking (two by two), our sleeping and waking. It is like the Virus has given us a BIG TIME OUT. I am not saying that we personally have done something wrong to deserve our TIME OUT. But the world has definitely got some serious things going wrong in order for everyone to be sent to their rooms.

And yet I am encouraged that even in this TIME OUT, we can carry on with God’s commands in order to have an abundant and full life. I know it is hard for some people to comprehend this, but to Love God with our whole heart and all we have, is actually one of the only things we can do right now.  Isn't it cool that just when we think, “how are we going to go to ‘Church’ and be the light to the World?” that maybe He is reminding us that the four simple things he asked us to do, we can still do.  And all He is asking us to do is to be obedient to that. 

I wonder if in this time to re-think, calm down and pause that we might miss the greatest chance to change our behaviour.  I wonder if during this TIME OUT, God might be wanting to teach us more about HIM. During this TIME OUT, wouldn't it be great, if we learned that in a world that is out of control, God is never out of control. In a world that is ever changing, God has never changed, and his commandments in Deuteronomy 6 are now more relevant and doable that ever before. 

When my kids did not change their behaviour when they left their rooms, they went straight back in. Even if they didn't like it or agree, they knew they had to make changes for the better if they wanted the chance to get out and do what they wanted to do. I hope we learn from this what God is wanting to teach us. That we bring the ‘best of us’ out of our rooms and live in a way that shows that we do love the Lord our God with our whole heart and with all we have got. And that is all He is asking of us, because I believe He can really use that to make a difference in this broken world.



I HOPE that when we are able to finally come out of our rooms that we don't go back to the old behaviours and what we thought was important. I HOPE that we rise to be better people, a better generation, a stronger world; a world where we value all people, we treat all people equally and we care for the least of these, whenever we get the chance.


Deuteronomy 6:1-5 MSG

This is the commandment, the rules and regulations, that God, your God, commanded me to teach you to live out in the land you’re about to cross into to possess. This is so that you’ll live in deep reverence before God lifelong, observing all his rules and regulations that I’m commanding you, you and your children and your grandchildren, living good long lives.
Listen obediently, Israel. Do what you’re told so that you’ll have a good life, a life of abundance and bounty, just as God promised, in a land abounding in milk and honey.
God, our God! God the one and only!
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!”
            

Friday, 1 May 2020

What will we do with this TIME?

As I walked outside my door the other day, I was greeted with a little package and letter. What a surprise, what a blessing, the message I needed to hear, coming from one who took the time to simply write her thoughts on paper, for me to be able to read over and over again.
 

Isolation for many has been a difficult thing, a loss of many things which we have no control over. Barbara Brown Taylor said about this TIME 

“We are not losing control, we are losing the illusion that we ever had any control.”

So, as the Illusion has hit home, for many of us of being under the tyranny of so many things that are out of our control, what do we do? Or maybe the question remains, what do we really actually have? What can we be assured of that will never change?


Much of the New Testament letters were written while in Isolation or under persecution. In Jail, Paul had so much TIME to be with himself and his God. There was no internet, TV, Netflix, messenger, iPhone in those days, and wouldn't have been allowed in jail anyway. He had a lot of alone time, to ponder the things that he really had and that which would never change? I wonder if he hadn’t had that TIME to sit and wonder and ponder, if we would have the promises and hope we have today as we read things such as: 

Phil 1:9-11
“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christs return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT)

Phil 1:21
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”

Phil 2:1-3
“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Phil 2:14-16
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life”. 

Phil 3:8-11
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead”.

It goes on and on, I simply encourage you to take the TIME to read the letter to the “Philippians” during this Isolation space, over and over again. 

Even in our current isolation, the internet allows instantaneous places to escape the nothingness. In fact, the overload of social media has felt like it has tripled since COVID-19 struck. And while I am very thankful for the internet in so many ways, nothing has been encouraging more than a number of personal hand-made letters that have been dropped at my door, hand-written in love. It didn't cost them anything but TIME.

The slow intentional place we find ourselves in when we choose to take the TIME to write a letter.  Putting paper to pen and taking the TIME to record our thoughts. We are in a time like never before where the depth of this space allows for it. A space where you may never know the gift you bring by taking the time to encourage others to deeply consider who God is and how deeply He loves us. 

Yes in this TIME, we are still all connected, but our “connectivity" does not mean “intimacy”. My prayer is that during this TIME we place a higher value on personal intimate interactions as this crisis lifts. But in the meantime, we can begin the intimacy process by writing and sharing our deeper feelings, rather than a quick one minute text or a two second emoji or a funny share on Facebook or twitter. Let that not be how we spend our TIME, just trawling the internet and sharing funny and thoughtful posts, but to take the TIME to consider those real relationships and how we can invest into them, truth and love that is lasting and will only change in a deeper and more real way. The choice we have control over, the question is “how will we love those we do life with better in spite of this crisis, in the midst of the crisis and after the crisis is gone?” 



Monday, 13 April 2020

The Church is calibrated for a world that doesn't exist.

On March 7th, 2020 Jake Mulder said, “The church is calibrated for a world that doesn’t exist”.  On that day I sat in an auditorium of 900+ people. I knew at the time it was a profound statement for the church, as it must be willing to consider how broken it has been to speak to the world it finds itself in. But none of us at the time knew how prophetic it would be, that within days of him speaking we would no longer be able to meet in groups of more than 100 inside and then a week later, no-one is able to meet face to face at all. 

The world is in shutdown and it is not just the church that is calibrated for the world that no longer exists. 

The church is now scrambling along with everyone else in the world to know how to function, and rightly so. 

These are profound times. “Unprecedented” is the word I continue to hear. Everyone has a voice, a special announcement, an opinion, a way forward. Almost every sector of the world must re-think how we must do life as we now live in a world we are not calibrated for! The church must also do the same. 

The mandate has never changed. It seems to me that the call is still to “love God and love our neighbor as ourselves”. And maybe because we have created lots of NEW ways to 'do' Church with all the right intentions, we NOW find ourselves scrambling to 'undo' all our structures to simply abide by new rules while still trying to maintain a “calibration” that maybe should have never existed in the first place. 

I want to say in the words of our Australian prime minster “stop it”.

Now is the time to go back to the original design, the simplicity of meeting together … ‘where two or three are gathered I am there in the midst’. It is clear for a while that will have to start with Households. To love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Never in a long time in history have we truly had the opportunity to simply live this out in a way that I believe may truly fulfill the great commission, help save lives, help people not feel so alone, and help bring peace and hope to a panicked world. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to change and re-think and recalibrate in a time when we HAVE to change. Let’s get it right this time. Let’s ask the right questions and not just think short term, but long term. Let’s not panic and react but deeply seek Him and what He is teaching us about how we are to respond. 

In these times of re-thinking everything, Jake Mulder said something else that day that struck me. So often when we have to make changes, we approach it by the quick fix rather than considering the long-term gains. It seems this is the biggest discord among all Australians about how to flatten the curve of the corona virus. There are short term and long-term decisions that are constantly being weighed up against each other as World Leaders do their best to lead in this difficult time. I am not making any judgement about how and what they should be doing. I respect the difficult position they are in. But when it comes to being a leader in the Church, that’s the space I am called to consider how to move forward. 

Jake described this as needing to decide between “lollies and chips” vs “Vegetables”. How many might choose “lollies and chips” over eating vegetables if we had to decide what we wanted to eat at a Saturday night party night. It’s the quick fix, the sugar rush, the thing that gets us through a tough spot, the thing that in the short term fills the gap and feels good at the same time. Although as leaders we have been thrown into needing to “think quick” in the past weeks, when we catch our breath, we need to think more long term and we know that the better thing to eat long term is vegetables. For many they are not as palatable and as easy to prepare and need more thought, but in the long term they are better for us and set us up for health long term. 

The Quick fix has been to do everything online. The world has been set up for years with every online resource you can imagine. Teaching is accessible on any topic by the best communicators in the kingdom. The quick fix is there and yet pastors of all ages have spent these last weeks trying to get studios set up and record services for this Sunday. I have heard people say for years that the ‘Online” world is so dangerous, and now it may just be our savior.

BUT I believe it could also STILL be our greatest hindrance. It is not about the resource but how we use it. In the immediate, where physical isolation is important to flatten the curve, of course access what the church already has. But let’s not forget the Body of Christ and how each part has an important part to play. Why do we think unless your community hears the PASTORS voice it is not “Ok”. There is so much wisdom in the Kingdom; Prophets and Pastors all vying for their voice to be heard in this space. Let’s share the best voices of this time with the Kingdom all over the world and then pastors, let’s spend our time thinking through the “vegetables” - the long term. In 6-12 months from now where do we want to be?  If it is still online and waiting for the next podcast we are in more trouble than ever. 

As we ponder what the church should look like, let’s not JUST answer this question for the short term, to get us out of this hotspot, and do the quick fix with the view to return to how we have done things in the past as quickly as possible. Let’s consider the long term and how God might want to re-shape the future for the long term, to be much healthier faith communities, to fulfill the great commission in 6-8 months from here, and beyond, with what He wants us to start now. 

There has never been a better time to be a good neighbor. 
There has never been a better time to take the time to get to know our God more deeply and find peace, love and grace in the midst of confusion. 
There has never been a better time to simplify what it means to truly do life together. 
There has never been a better time to be with those you love and care for each other well, to listen, to provide basic things like milk and bread. 
There has never been a better time to choose wisely what you will spend your time doing, now that many things are no longer possible. 
There has never been a better time to recalibrate what is really important in your life, what you need and don’t need. 
There has never been a better time to be a good citizen. 
There has never been a better time to lead by example.
 There has never been a better time to bring peace to a hurting world. 
There has never been a better time to be empathetic and other-centered.

It is time for the church of God to become re-calibrated for the world that exists now, and to rediscover that God has given us the tools and models all along. Its simply time to put them into practice.


Sunday, 29 March 2020

Hope in a Time of Despair

Amidst a pandemic health problem that is real and threatening it imperative that we need to “socially isolate” from each other. This for some is exciting, and for some scary. All the extroverts are thinking OMG how will I survive, Introverts are saying “yay”, but over time everyone will feel the strain of all that it will mean.  

I must say at first, I was tempted to put my head down and hibernate for while. It suited me just fine.  And probably “like a sabbath”, that many like me are not good at taking, for a time it might be just what everyone needs. But it didn't take me long before the guilt of “ease and comfort” set in and I realised this might be just the time when God is calling us to rise up. I mean, what would the world say about Christians during this time if all they saw is that we were hiding in our houses, keeping to ourselves?

“The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”  
(Matthew 9:37-38)

Never before in my life, have I had a chance to help my neighbour as I have this week, to connect with people who have been otherwise too busy and share feelings and listen to each other.  The faith community I am a part of, that I would say is pretty connected usually, has been more connected that ever before. 

With Messenger, Facebook, Text, Phone calls, there is sharing going on everywhere. We had a ZOOM prayer and worship morning this Sunday morning. The young people stayed on an hour after we finished just to talk to each other. And one of our community who now lives in Paris, France, was able to join us for the first time in 6 months. 


A few days before that we had a practice for those new to ZOOM to get on and make sure everything was working. What a laugh. People were so funny, all trying to talk to each other at the same time, while some people were trying to do funny things, the young people chatting on the side, the oldies trying to get their camera focused. As we all share what God is challenging and comforting us with, we are all hearing God’s heart and word from all different people. Every person has the chance to make someone else's day. And this is not happening just on Sundays, it is happening every day of the week.


We have also found that our outward/missional expression has increased tenfold. In the past week, as a community, we have created a “Love and Care for each other” notice board and people are pitching in to create baskets for shut ins and struggling families. We have worked out how we can get FREE food parcels to families. We have created a “card” that people can fill out and drop in neighbours’ boxes to offer help. We have considered starting to write “old fashioned” letters to people and create a pen pal system. Young people have helped older people hook up ZOOM and Messenger. Our people are putting together “craft kits” for kids, Easter hampers for others. Some are making cards and others are just enjoying a lot more time to chat. 

People we haven’t heard from in ages are now connecting back in and appreciating the community. And every day offers a chance to make someone’s day. For the numbers of shopkeepers and workers who have been yelled at each day, it doesn’t take much to counteract that with a smile and a thank you.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  
Hebrews 10-20-25


All this to say that if we have eyes to see, and ears to hear, now is the time to bring “Hope” in a time of despair, to walk together more deeply and make sure people don't feel alone.

Let’s share the stories of what is possible, because now more than ever, every little bit helps.







Wednesday, 18 March 2020

The panic of not having, and knowing what we really need.


In the wake of the current climate, where so much is unknown, the panic over toilet paper (non-essentials) and not having enough food stocked in cupboards, is an interesting response. 

As many followed Jesus out onto the hillside one day, longing for something more than what food and money can buy, they found themselves in a place where they had nothing to eat that day. They were not prepared with food, as to follow Jesus and the nourishment He was giving was the main focus. So they listened to Him speak and pondered on the depth of His words.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “you feed them”. Maybe like us right now, they looked at each other with bewilderment and felt straight away, “We can’t do that”.  

We look right now at the situation, and although the really important conversation is about health, it seems that the panic is about the fear of not having the food we want, when we want it. So much so that there needs to be a set time for the elderly and disabled to have a time when they are not being rushed by everyone else, simply as they get a few items. The hoarding and panic of food and toilet paper that is happening around the country seems like such an overreaction to something far more important. We are blessed to live in a country where supply of these things would never be in jeopardy. Imagine how people might respond if this was really the issue. Something many third world countries face daily.

But deeper than this and sadder for me is that many churches all over the world seem to be focusing on the sadness of not being able to meet in their usual crowds. As solutions are becoming apparent there seems to be a sense that everything will be okay because you can stay in your house and your pastor will “live stream” in his message. Is this really a solution to the problems arriving? Is this even the problem? Is this even the calling?  Maybe we have strayed so far from our calling that at this time it is surely important to ask, “what should our focus be on right now?” I believe it is the same focus that it has always been. It has never changed? 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart … and love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39.

Yes, this IS our call. So, what does that look like right now, today?  So many Christians, ministries are so focused on how to maintain all that they have created, that to ask how best to love God and love each other in this difficult time is hard right now. 

Like the disciples, we look at each other and say, “We can’t do that. We have to answer bigger questions: people are not coming to our services anymore. What do we do about all our planned Easter Celebrations? How do I televise my message so everyone can hear it?”

Jesus said bring me what you have … 2 fish, 5 small loaves of bread, and He used it to feed over 5000 right there and then, reminding us that God provides us with even more than what we think we need and we can find peace and comfort in His provision. Then He drew away from the crowds to be by Himself and with His father because He knew they wanted to idolise Him, make it all about Kingdom building here on this earth, create bigger crowd gatherings. (John 6:5-15).  The next day the crowd found out where Jesus was and followed him again. He said to them, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs - and for free. Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides.” (Jn 6:26-27MSG)

Last night my daughter came home from her life group, a small group of people (less than 10) meeting together to share stories, their life and their struggles and read God’s word. She was buzzing as she shared how life-giving it was to hear and share real challenges in the midst of such pain. While I love a podcast of a great preacher/pastor and there is a place for that, especially today, in times like these I believe we must be a shining light, of people who know what is most important and can we live in a way that brings peace and love and generosity in the place of panic, hoarding and self-doubt.  What gives us real nourishment? We all have access to His “Word” here in Australia. We are blessed. This is the food that sticks with you.  With that assurance, we are then called to be together and love our neighbour.  What a great time in history to be asking the question, 

“What does being together and loving our neighbour look like today?” 

Oh, that we should be known as people who loved well and cared well, who shared well, who asked, “What can we do for others today?”

The 5000 on the hillside that day, didn't seem panicked that they didn't have food, much less toilet paper. They seemed more panicked that Jesus had left and they wanted to know where He was. As they carried their many baskets of leftover food with them (more than they needed), they walked around the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus speak again. 

“I am the bread of life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.”  (John 6:35) As the Jews started arguing about what he just said, Jesus continued with stunning words that stop me in my tracks when I read them: 

“Don’t bicker among yourselves over me. You’re not in charge here. The Father who sent me is in charge. He draws people to me. That’s the only way you’ll ever come. Only then do I do my work, putting people together, setting them on their feet, ready for the End.” (John 6:43-44MSG)

What do we really need today? What does the world really need today? How can we be a part of the solution and not be a part of the problem? Do we really believe what is happening today is a surprise to God? Let us to seek Him for how we are called to be His people today and maybe in the process we might find that the things we thought were really important,  like how we gather, how we function as His body, might even set us on a better course for the future.  

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A Collision of Old and Young

As a faith community we have created an environment we call “Upward Worship”. It has elements of food and fellowship, input and worship, reflection and mediation, prayer and ministry.  People enter in at all different levels during the worship and reflection space and all ages are present. 


I remember this one night when a young single mother came with her twin 12 month old babies. We had cushions and rugs all over the floor and while the worship was happening the children were playing up the front on the cushions. They would adventure to different spaces and at times they were hard to take your eyes off. They were so gorgeous. I wondered a few times if it was too distracting. I watched a few of our elderly and wondered if this would be a problem. The mother was so gentle with the children and had to rescue them a few times, but generally they we just being 12 month old babies and their innocent play was captivating, but not distracting if you didn't allow it. 

A few weeks later, one of the elderly women in our community asked me if at next “Upward Worship” she could share a story. I was delighted and then she asked me the name of the mother with the young children. It was an unusual name and she kept forgetting it. I giggled and wondered what that was all about, but didn't think much of it. 

So “Upward Worship” came around again and Ruth took the mic, sat on the edge of the stage and began to share. 

I recorded this moment so I am going to use her words for the next few paragraphs. I don't want to miss a word of her wisdom. 

She began to share… “how great it is to be in a church from young to old, and old to young”.  She said she wanted to encourage us and began to talk about the mother and her two beautiful children. She stopped and began to cry as she tried to describe how beautiful they were. She continued on to say that the mother “was such a beautiful mother, she just let those little children investigate, and then rescued them if they needed it, gave them a cuddle when they needed that. It really touched my heart”. She continued … “One of them climbed up onto the stage and then wanted to get down and he came up and touched the pillow and realised it wasn’t secure, so he turned around and went down backwards…and I thought it was just so beautiful". 

She was clearly enamoured by these children and after the worship had finished she went up to the young mother and told her she thought she was doing such a beautiful job with these children. How amazing it must have been for that young mum to hear those words of encouragement.

Ruth continued to share about … “how good is it that we can be in a group where we appreciate each other so much”.  

So then she said … “I went home and in the early hours of the morning I believe the Lord gave me a picture. A beautiful picture of myself and my heavenly father. How He is allowing me to go out and discover new things, experience new things and if I trip He just picks me up and loves me and holds me.  I want to say, those children ministered to me”. 

She talked about the power of a smile. She said, “A friend and I were talking not long after that about the power of a smile, and how if we smile to each other, we can affect and minister to others.   Isn't it amazing that God has created us with a muscle in our face that can effect someone’s heart”. (This was a statement of Gold to me) 

“I had this beautiful thought that not only was my father looking after me in that lovely time I had with him that morning, but He was also smiling at me. I am not special. He does the same for all His children and I just wanted to encourage our hearts tonight to the reality of God with us, caring for us, watching over us, helping us when we get into trouble and go the wrong direction.” 

She continued …  “When I was bringing up my children I would have smacked them and said “get down”, but this mother was just so gentle and I think that is what struck me most. You are all very precious to Him. He loves you very much, and He is on your case, but with a smile”. 

She asked if she could pray for us all and as we bowed our heads and closed our eyes, I could see her weeping, as she found it hard to get the words out. Her love for God often overflows in this way and as she prayed you could see the ways in which God overwhelms this beautiful woman. She prayed …

           “I thank you God for the compassion that you 
have for the youngest to the oldest. 
That you have brought us together as a 
community to share life together. 
 I thank you so much for your great heart of love for us. We can never thank you enough. 
I commit these precious people to you tonight, 
that they may know the deep reality of your 
powerful and gracious love. To be able to smile at you 
and to give us the awareness that you are not a Judge, 
but someone who loves us.” 

She finished with a verse …

Is 40:10-11
“The sovereign Lord comes with the power. The Sovereign Lord tends to his flock like a shepherd. He gathers His lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart. He gently leads those that have young.”

Ruth was open and willing to be taught by the play of two innocent babes and a young mother’s love. God can use anything, if we have eyes and hearts that are open.  When I consider all the things we could be doing as a “faith community”, it is moments like this that remind me that all He wants from us it to be together, to care and appreciate each other, to learn from each other and to honour Him with all that we have.  Is there anything more wonderful than that?