Friday, 12 November 2010

Daisy’s Afternoon Tea with the over 60’s.

Yesterday I spent two hours with a group of over 60’s drinking tea and eating cake and hearing them share part of their stories. They had been asked to bring something from home that would tell us something about them and the stories that flowed were a joy and a privilege to hear.
One lady now in her early seventies talked about her 20 years as captain of a darts team and brought her darts to show. She talked of teaching her team in the early days about the dart board and how it didn’t go round numerically and the different kinds of darts. I see the glimmer in the eye and her smile as she tells us something of her history, a part of her life that has been hidden in her memories until shared with us.
Another lady produces two photographs. One a school class photo from 1945 taken when she was 12 and the other, a recent photo with five of the women from the class photo, they are still friends after 65 years. She keeps repeating how different they all look after 65 years. The photos are passed around and everyone takes delight in trying to spot her. She points herself out as the one in the pullover on the front row as she had a cold that day and her mum wouldn’t let her wear her pinafore. She can remember the names of all her classmates. Precious photos and memories.
The conversation moves to first jobs and they tell of mums and dads taking daughters to get a job. One lady’s mum walked her into the shoe shop and asked them to give her a job, not too impressed she walked her to the factory and spoke to the foreman, she was only 14 at the time. She didn’t finish school and started a week later in the ‘Sunlight’ factory. She told us how they would employ you for 11 months then get rid of you so they didn’t have to pay sick pay and she would go down to the jobcentre and get another job for a while and then go back. She had worked in various factories including cracking nuts which made us all laugh and jokes were made about being crackers and nutty.
Another lady had wanted to work in an office but her dad knew a chemist who was looking for an assistant so she went there instead as – “you did what your parents wanted in those days”. She worked there till she got married which seemed to be how it was for a lot of young women in the 40’s and 50’s. Get a job as soon as you leave school until you get married then you will be staying home with the children was the expectation. She went back 20 years later and was so happy to tell us that she was told that ‘she hadn’t lost it in all these years’ once she returned to work. It is fascinating listening to them talk and hearing what snippets of their past they remember. This lady is well into her 80’s now and remembers the nice feeling of being affirmed by her employer which must have been 30 or 40 years previously.
They all agree that their pay, in shillings, was handed to their mum when they got it. One lady didn’t open her pay packet until after she was married as it was handed unopened to her mum. One lady in the army said half of her pay went directly to her mum from the employer, so her mum wasn’t best pleased when she left the army and hit “civvy street”.
We sit around laughing at the different stories there is some teasing about parents expectations and what they would wear when going out at the weekend. They didn’t have many clothes so would wear the same thing the weekend after, just turn it inside out or back to front. Absolutely hilarious, “in by 9 wearing a back to front cardigan.”
One lady is new to the afternoon tea group and as she walks in I note her tidy appearance, good sensible black shoes, dark green tights, just below the knee skirt just showing under her raincoat, hat and one of those spotted plastic rain hats that she folds up and tucks in her pocket. It isn’t actually raining outside. She is quite tall which is a rarity amongst the women, most are less than 5 foot, and one lady is so short she walks under my arm when I open the door for her. This lady is slim and has a very straight back, she sits on the sofa quite near the edge so as not to slouch.
She was asked to share what she did for her first job. She smiles and tells how one summer in her late teens she and a friend had helped out on a farm picking potatoes and despite the backbreaking work had enjoyed it so much they joined the Land Army. They were living in Liverpool at the time and the two girls signed up, committing to go together. Unfortunately they were sent to separate parts of the country. This lady was sent to Somerset to work on a cattle farm, she had never been anywhere near a cow before. She spent one month on a training farm and then she was sent away to different farm. She talked of getting up at 5 in the dark, fetching the cows in for milking in knee high mud, pulling her wellingtons up at every step so the mud didn’t go in over the top. She learnt to milk the cows by hand whilst being whipped by tails and then being put on a farm with mechanical milking machines which made the job much faster. Fresh milk being put in huge pan on the Arga and 24 hours later cream being skimmed off the top. She is asked whether she was lonely and she states quite openly that it was very lonely. Whilst the family who owned the farm were kind they were very busy. It seems she can remember the isolation. She sent half her pay home and as there was only one bus a day and half a day off a week she didn’t get much time to make any friends. When the Land Army was stopped she returned to Liverpool and got a job in an office till she got married. She smiles and carries on drinking her tea. An absolutely fabulous story.
Most of these women come every other week to our afternoon tea. Some come on the bus using their free bus pass, some still drive – one lady after a serious stroke, and some walk down the road. They struggle with aches and pains, bad hips, shaking and slurred speech, scary coughs, deafness and vision problems (one lady has a huge magnifying glass which is brought out to view anything close up, I think she doesn’t bother too much with what she can’t see at a distance). One lady is from Chile and is difficult to understand as she speaks quickly with a heavy accent, she sits in an armchair that envelops her as she is so dainty. One lady had a house fire that led to months of upheaval, in the midst of which her son died tragically. She came for a cup of tea after the funeral as she knew we would be there. They like their tea and coffee in a cup and saucer and exactly how they like it. They like millionaires shortcake and to sit and set the world to rights.
I love to sit and listen to them talk.
I love to see them.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Perspectives


Many years ago, when I first decided that maybe I should try ‘church’ again, we went to a Pioneer ‘Event’ in Norfolk and Martin Scott was speaking at one of the sessions.  I had only recently decided to be back on speaking terms with God and was still unconvinced by a lot of what passed for ‘church’.  Some of the people seemed nice and some seemed, frankly, nuts but what bothered me most about organized Christian clubs (or churches as we like to call them) was what is sometimes called theology but I’d more readily call dogma. By dogma I mean not just a way of thinking about God and our relationship to him but one specific set of ideas becoming crystallised and solidified so that they are unchanging, worse still unchallengeable, and are given the label ‘truth’.  Sadly I can remember nothing of what Martin spoke about that day but his introduction has stuck with me.  Obviously I can’t remember the exact words but the gist of it was along these lines…

“What I’m going to teach today isn’t the truth.  It’s what God is saying to me at the moment.  There are things I believe now that I didn’t necessarily believe five years ago and in five years’ time I may not believe some of the things I talk about today.  Don’t swallow what I say whole, take your Bible, and some time, to ask God what he thinks about it and then make up your own mind.”
(Now if I’ve misquoted you horribly Martin I apologize – this is only my imperfect recollection so if anyone disagrees with this statement vehemently you may direct your diatribes at me not Martin Scott!)

That to me was like someone taking all of my foundations of what it means to be part of a ‘church’ and smashing them up right before my eyes and then handing me another sledgehammer and asking me if I’d like to join in!  Intentionally or otherwise the church network I’d grown up in had instilled in me the belief that revelation, absolute revelation, was not only possible but had in fact been achieved; that there was a dogma that was better than all the other churches and it was ours.  We may learn a bit more and enhance our dogma a little, but there would never, ever, be anything we needed to unlearn.  I liked Martin’s viewpoint so much we threw our lot in with a Pioneer church and my renewed adventure with Jesus got off to a good start.

All of this is background to the point I want to make, it’s the scenery that gives my thoughts in this blog some context.

Since 2008 my wife, Mags, and I have been going down some interesting roads on our spiritual journey.  Mags really started her trek off the beaten path a few years earlier when we were on holiday in Canada in 2005, but she can tell you about that herself another time. In 2008 we met Justin Abraham and Dave Vaughan from ‘Emerge Wales’ and I felt like a door to a previously unheard of path was suddenly opened in front of me and Jesus was inviting me to come through it.  Over the last two years I’ve experienced Jesus in wonderful new ways and I’ve started believing some things that have shifted my whole life.  Simple stuff about how He came not just to pay the price for my sin but to actually destroy my sinful nature and to give me His nature, how the fullness of the Godhead dwells in me, that God never makes us sick to ‘teach us a lesson’ or develop our character, that good health and healing were bought for us and are our inheritance, that there’s living water bubbling up from my belly, that there’s nothing I can do to earn my salvation, that He’s done it all and I can stop trying and just be, that the good news is still ‘the Kingdom is near at hand’, that the struggle with sin is over and I’m not the man in Romans 7, that healing and deliverance and supernatural encounters are the norm for believing believers, that passion, wild abandon and fun can be the hallmarks of an encounter with God’s presence!  And there’s more…so MUCH more!  It’s impossible to create a dogma out of this Jesus because if you could then he’d be finite and limited to our understanding and suddenly He wouldn’t be God any more!

It’s been an interesting road because not everyone thinks the same way about some of this.  Some people really don’t like this road and don’t want to travel on it or don’t feel it’s for them.  Which is fine, but some people don’t want anyone else travelling on it either, which isn’t fine.

I woke up the other morning with the following thought floating round my head; “Any theology that doesn’t produce more grace and more love needs to be viewed with suspicion.” I was pondering where I’d heard it before or where I’d read it and have come to the conclusion it’s my thought, for me.  It’s a reminder not to judge other people’s motives, journey with Jesus or beliefs.  Just because I’m on a certain journey what makes me think everyone else has to be on it too?  If I try to police another person’s faith I have stopped having my own perspective and I have instead created myself a dogma, one I feel is superior to theirs. The flip side is true too, I will not allow myself to be policed by someone else’s beliefs or dogma, their journey is theirs and not mine.  When I am hurt by criticism or when I get offended by someone disagreeing with me surely it’s my pride that is hurt or offended; and really I should just get over it!  That’s the herd mentality that wants everyone to be going in the same direction in all things and Jesus doesn’t treat us that way.  He is capable of having a unique relationship with every one of us and I want to pursue my relationship with him into deeper realms of mystery.  Some of that journey will be alone, some of it will involve a small group of close friends and some of it a larger group using the label ‘church’.  However my responsibility is to be so full of grace and love that I rejoice in the things we have in common and don’t let our differences cause me to stumble and lose my way.  That’s my perspective… for today anyway!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Kingdom

In the last few weeks I’ve been reading the Message Old Testament and yesterday finished reading 2 Kings. For the first time I was struck by the loss of, and devastation to, the temple and Jerusalem. The last chapter setting out the removal of anything precious and burning the temple to the ground leaving only a few farmers behind. It is a shocking chapter in the history of our story.
The nation of Israel crossed the Jordan and for a time dominated the region, pushing out other cultures and setting themselves up with cities and occupying the land. I’m not sure they ever fully occupied all the land that had been promised to Abraham but they certainly arrived in the promised land and made their present felt. At its peak, the nation of Israel has Jerusalem with Solomon on the throne with a magnificent temple and palace, riches beyond measure and his wisdom influencing other nations. Biblical history sets the story out in graphic detail including where it all went wrong and why.
Their loss was enormous and not just economic but physical and most importantly they lost their identity and inheritance, but for a remnant. The ark was gone, judgement had been levied against them and exile had come upon them. All they had was gone, the land, the culture, the promise and the presence. Devastation.
The bible tells us of the return and the start of the rebuild of the temple. This would be at odds with our thinking perhaps. Surely the place is an absolute tip and homes and infrastructure are needed first but they start rebuilding the temple. Even when they start to rebuild houses at the expense of the temple they are told by Haggai that the reason they are not being successful is because they have stopped the rebuilding of the temple.”You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home I blew away. Why? Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” Haggai 1:9
I think it is no wonder that when Jesus arrives a few hundred years later the nation of Israel was a confused place. Over the years they had been allowed to return but to an area that no longer had the influence or affluence of earlier days. They knew the stories of old, they were taught the law, letter by letter they did not want to forget again and be forced again into exile. They would now obey every word and hold onto what they had, remember their identity - they were the children of Abraham and they added regulation after regulations and waited for the rescue that had been promised by the prophets. They appear to have become seriously legalistic and controlling and missing the biggest commandment of all - to love. Hoping that one day their empire would return. And then Jesus arrives.
The Jewish nation were waiting for a ‘Messiah’, but in their history the restorers meant kings with a mighty sword who pushed back the enemy and restored their former glory in the area. They were looking for another King David who would win in battle and force back the enemy, put them back on the map. Perhaps they forgot that he also had a heart after God and an intense life of worship. Interesting that Jesus did arrive as a king with a mighty sword but he came to defeat the enemy once and for all and to bring a glory to the house greater than the former. But they could not see it because they were looking for a different kind of kingdom, they were looking for an empire. Jesus came to preach the good news and to announce that the kingdom of God was at hand. God’s kingdom looks so different to the kingdoms of this world it is difficult to recognise.
This kingdom comes as a servant, a loving servant, a servant full of the Holy Spirit bringing good news with not just words but with power. This kingdom has one king only, high and lifted up, one counsellor, one teacher, one gate, one Father. The rules of this kingdom are love and grace, freedom and reconciliation. This kingdom looks to restore to its original design all of creation, so it revives and it restores. It brings life to all who encounter it and it has arms open wide to all. This kingdom is advancing every day since the days of John the Baptist. Isaiah prophesied that his kingdom rule would increase. So every day that rule is increasing and the enemy’s dominion is decreasing. Hallelujah!
Once again this kingdom is to be laid hold of by violence but this is a different kind of violence it is a passion for the things of God, being prepared to kill anything that would stand in the way of that passion, to kill daily all those things that hinder.
At the centre of this kingdom is also a temple where God wants to dwell. It too has to be built up first, where worship is the bricks and mortar, where intimacy with the King is the treasure that fills it. This temple has Jesus as it’s cornerstone, the Holy Spirit as the decorator and gardener and the Father as the architect and master builder. The influence and wisdom of this temple can impact nations one advancing step at a time. This is the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed and it is at hand. How close is your hand?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Shot glasses

Shot glass 1.
Healing, the truth that God intends good for me, that I am a new creation, that my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit to reside, that I have the fullness of the deity within me. That on the cross all my sins and sicknesses were dealt with, that I am no longer subject to the world or the fall, I am a child of the Kingdom and it is kingdom rules that apply to me. The glass contains all this truth and a leaf from the tree in heaven whose leaves are for the healing of the nations which includes me. So I drink this glass as God’s medicine to cure me of any sicknesses or illnesses and that my body will work in line with heaven’s order today.

Shot glass 2.
The armour of God. The belt of truth round my waist, the truth – Jesus in my centre. The helmet fitted perfectly with iPod to play me heaven’s music, God singing over me, angels worshipping in the throne room, words of life, strong on the outside to protect me, earmuffs to keep out lies, son glasses so I can see as He sees, muzzle on my tongue to speak only good, chin strap to keep my head up, help is always on the way. Breastplate of rightness with God, full access into the presence of God, holiness, oneness. The sword to use when necessary and only as the author of the book specifies, two edged, powerful and effective. My shield perfectly handled to be held up to keep back any fiery arrows regardless of where they came from. My feet fitted with readiness that comes from knowing the gospel and the peace it brings me.

Shot glass 3.
The anointing cup, my cup overflows, full of the Holy Spirit to fill me full to overflowing today, all of him in all of me. He has anointed me to preach good news, he has en –powered me, he is the living water flowing from the One, he is my wine, my Eden’s spring water, he is my strength, my wisdom, my counsellor, my teacher, my revealer, fruitfulness and gifting. This shot glass never empties to be drunk from constantly.

Shot glass 4.
Communion wine. Representing his precious blood poured out for me, redemption, rescue, love, hope, heaven’s best, he becomes my DNA, the unforced rhythm of walking with him, he is my song and my dance, he is my beloved and I am his. Here I have forgiveness and all sufficient grace. Here is unity with Jesus, full communion, true vine dwelling, and completeness.

Today I remember to drink.

Monday, 14 June 2010

the little thread

Once upon a time there was a little thread. It wasn’t sure when it was created or where it came from but it knew it existed and whilst sitting on a spool waiting to be added to the other threads in the box and made use of, it began to dream of what it was to be. Maybe the thread on a unique pair of trousers bought by an executive then it would be able to be cleaned professionally and taken on trips abroad. Maybe weaved into a cuddly toy for a new born baby to be cherished for many years to come, snuggled into at night and loved. Maybe into a cushion that could be sold to royalty and it would spend its life being adored. Deep down though its secret heart’s desire was to work with young people, it wasn’t sure how or when but each night as it went to sleep it would hope that tomorrow would be the day.
The day comes and the little thread is chosen, picked up and woven in with other threads into a piece of cloth with a pattern with lines going up and down and sideways. It seems to the thread that it is just a piece of cloth and maybe it is to be sewed onto something else but when a label is attached it realises that it is to be a tea towel, used for drying dishes. Not quite what it had hoped for but ever optimistic it knew it would be used daily, washed often and would have the opportunity to handle precious objects. It was happy with its creators choice and would work hard and be pleasing to its new owner.
It is purchased for use in a community centre and it is excited that it will be used even more often than in a household and it hoped that its secret desire to be used in youth work would come to pass. Days and weeks go by and the thread, as part of the tea towel, is taken out regularly and used to dry dishes and glasses, sometimes sample bottles and sometimes to mop up spills. It is complimented for being a good tea towel, very absorbent and holding its colours well. It becomes apparent to the thread however that young people are not interested in all the thread has to offer. Weeks pass and it is nearly a year since the thread had arrived at the centre full of hopes and dreams and whilst some of the dreams had been fulfilled it’s deepest desire was yet to be realised.
And so if you have read this and you would consider yourself ‘a young person’ why don’t you take the opportunity to realise the little threads dream and pick up a tea towel, dry a few dishes, take it home give it a wash, bring it back to the centre and place it back in the drawer. Please don’t forget it, don’t leave it getting dusty in the drawer, lonely and unfulfilled. You can be that person, you have what it takes, go on take a risk, use a tea towel today and make at least one little thread’s dream come true.


On behalf of ‘support your local tea towel’ group.
For more information see www.teatowelshavedreamstoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Well digging and maintenance.

Digging a Well, I understand, is really hard manual work and the deeper the Well, the harder the work. Digging out all the top soil and compacted earth and if the land is particularly dry, getting through the first foot is as hard as digging through the harder ground deeper down. Once the hole is dug and it is hooked up to the water supply it is necessary to ensure the Well does not collapse and general maintenance to keep it clear of rubble follows, together with ensuring the water supply does not dry up or become contaminated. A lot of hard work. But if you want clean water you probably have to put the work in.
We read in the Old Testament that wells used to be dug and protected, sometimes filled in by enemies and years later re-dug. In more recent times friends of mine dug a well in Albania in the middle of a hot summer and attached a pump and for a few years it supplied relatively useable water. Once a water supply was provided through pipes the well was pretty much disguarded and used only rarely in emergencies. I wonder if we get so used to water coming through pipes,with little effort, that we rarely go digging for fresh water. Perhaps the difference between Manna in the desert and living off the produce of the land in the Promised land...
Before Christmas I was thinking about my own spiritual Well and if it had been filled in over time, large bolders of disappointment were certainly present and Jesus did a great job of demolishing them. He is the perfect soul restorer. Hard work at maintaining a Well I believe is not striving to sort out the Well myself but to go to the originator and ask him to sort it out whilst I rest in him. It is a hard choice to accept I can do nothing and he can do everything.
Today I was pondering corporate Wells such as the local church and how we want to dig Wells. I am reminded of Bill Johnson talking about the inconvenience of having fresh water and how some of his congregation were having to park their cars a few blocks away because those coming to drink from their Well were so desperate for water, some having travelled thousands of miles, were in the parking spaces near to the church. Bill said one of the keys to them was hospitality and getting over the inconvenience. I think that’s great. I don’t like being inconvenienced and don’t think I’m alone otherwise the word wouldn’t exist but I am willing to be inconvenienced more if it is because there is fresh water and people want to drink from it.
I am also reminded of a story Godfrey tells about a place where they don’t have fences to keep the livestock in and the reason being that once you have dug a Well you don’t need a fence as the livestock will always return to the Well and he encourages us to be well diggers not fence builders.
I was talking to Phil this morning about conferences and events that we travel to or put on ourselves and wondered whether we travel to other places to get soaked up in order to return to somewhere that is a bit dry. But if there is no Well at home the water soon runs dry and nothing really changes, so off to another conference we go. So the answer would be to ensure there is a Well at home, personally and corporately. As far as putting on a conference Phil said that’s like the tanker coming in with a load of fresh water and tipping it into the Well and sometimes we want to keep all the fresh water for ourselves so consider putting up a fence.

I was thinking about Rebekah in Genesis 24 and her reaction to a stranger turning up at her town’s Well. She gets him a drink and then does the same for his camels, she didn’t seem to resent any of the extra work and displayed wonderful hospitality. Her story would have been completely different if she had dismissed the steward. I have no doubt that God’s story would have continued but with another wife for Isaac.

So I will try to display hospitality rather than annoyance over inconvenience and be very thankful that there is a Well that people want to come and drink from.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Time for the ‘New’

Time for a new season. We make statements like ‘it is time for a new season’ and ‘it is time for a change’ but what is it we are actually looking for and is it actually ‘new’. A new season in government, church, banking, education, media.... I think that sometimes wanting the new is just about having had enough of the old. It can be quite a negative view trying to look like a positive one. When thinking what ‘new’ looks like I struggle to find structure to my thoughts because I am looking for something new which in itself indicates that it has not been seen before. A fresh season perhaps, blowing in some clear air, getting rid of the cobwebs, the staleness. This also appears negative though as it is more about getting rid of something than bringing something in.
I think perhaps it is not something new that I want, it is something very old, something ancient, something that has been lost over the centuries. I suppose I want the original purpose, the original plan, as it was laid down in the foundations of the earth by the creator. I know this will be in my future but it is also from my beginning and I want to experience this in my present. So today when I look for a new thing what I am looking for is the new thing God is doing to restore the ancient and fulfil the promise for the future. So when looking for a new thing, a new season, I am looking for God and only content when I find him, listen to him and walk with him in the unforced rhythm of grace.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Positions, Platforms & Profiles

I’ve been pondering some issues of leadership recently and I want to write about just one today, that’s the issue of position.  Many years ago when I was tentatively coming back to a relationship with Jesus, after a good few years being very determinedly away from him, we went along to a newish church in Manchester near where we lived and one thing that impressed me greatly was that I couldn’t tell who the leaders were.  They sat with their families during the meeting, in amongst the congregation, and only when they had something to contribute did they get up and go to the front.  It was several weeks before we knew who was ‘in charge’.  I don’t know if they still do that or even if it was a conscious policy on their part, after a few months we moved to the Wirral and threw our lot in with our current fellowship and so we lost touch with them.  Over the years I’ve been to all sorts of gatherings, meetings, churches and organizations but one thing seems fairly constant no matter how staid and formal or wild and free it is and that is the ‘reserved seating’!  Often this is in the form of a row of comfy or impressive chairs facing the main congregation on a raised platform where the elders or leaders sit, sometimes it’s just some hand-made A4 ‘reserved for…’ sheets placed on the front row, but whichever it is we seem obsessed with our leaders being given or, even more sadly - them wanting, a special place to sit.  Are our meetings regularly so jam-packed that if we didn’t reserve them a seat on the front row then they might end up standing at the back or sitting on the floor?  Do we frown upon the Catholic & Anglican churches for their priests and vicars dressing up in outlandish costumes and being considered separate from the laity but then utterly fail to notice the plank in our own eye that ensures our leaders, guest speakers or worship-musicians dress up in their smart clothes, get their hair done, ‘look the part’ and are seated on a raised platform away from the ‘proles’! I’m not putting all the blame on those in leadership or saying they all want this kind of recognition or status, I’m sure many do not.  However I think we often want them to be put up on a pedestal.  We want to know who’s in charge and to believe there are some ‘special’ people controlling the meeting – for one thing it allows us to settle into the familiar role of being a ‘consumer’ rather than the much scarier and  less familiar role of being a ‘contributor’ to the proceedings.  Also it gives us something to aspire to, “One day I will be up there on that platform and then I’ll have made it.”  I’m sure we wouldn’t put it as crudely or bluntly as that, but is that how we sometimes think; we develop a better understanding of scripture, work on our ‘ministry’, share our new revelations and it earn us status and recognition?  The worldly hierarchical organizational structure is so deeply ingrained in the western mind-set perhaps we don’t even notice when the church is riddled with it.

Jesus’ one and only appearance as the centre of attention along with the recognized ‘leaders’ of his society was when he was being put on trial, brutally beaten and then crucified.  The vast majority of his ministry was on the margins, in the out-of-the-way places, the villages, the countryside, the lake shore and at the sinner’s dining tables.  We all know the ‘correct’ definition of a leader is that (s)he is a servant but it’s surprising how much ‘serving’ in the modern church requires a collection of smart suits, access to an exclusive ‘green room’, an executive hotel suite, first class travel and a hefty fee. 

I’m regularly inspired by a man I know with an international ministry who doesn’t have a set fee that you must meet to get him to come…he carries his ministry very lightly, he isn’t precious about his status and knows that God is his provider; he gives his all for a room with ten people in it just as he does for a hall holding thousands.  Maybe if more of our leaders were like this, were more anonymous and part of the crowd we wouldn’t listen to them or take note of the wisdom, revelation and teaching they have to impart, if so then I guess we’ve got the situation we deserve.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Serious Times

Mags and I recently caught the end of someone’s sermon at an event we went along to, it was only the last five minutes or so but what he said set me thinking.  The gentleman was, I’m sure, very sincere and well meaning and to be fair to him we did only hear the last few minutes of what he said so we missed the wider context.  He was imploring those attending the conference to ‘get serious’ because we live in ‘very serious days’.  He then spoke in a very earnest and measured manner about our nation being ‘bankrupt morally, spiritually and financially’ and we Christians need to take these things very seriously and respond in a serious way.  The language he used, the tone of voice and the way he expected those gathered to respond was so heavy, downbeat and, frankly, depressing that I felt temped to run out onto the stage and tell a few funny stories or share some of the miraculous healings and salvations we’re got used to hearing about from our friends Aliss & Rob in Blacon.

He’s quite right about the days being serious and our nation is, by and large, as he described it; what I take issue with is his response.  The lost, hurting, frightened people, our colleagues, friends and neighbours, who are trapped in moral quagmires, spiritual bondage or even financial troubles do not need earnest, serious, sober Christians nodding their heads glumly and commiserating with them on the evils of this modern age and offering a sombre prayer.  They need followers of Jesus who are filled with the Joy of heaven because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit; the same Holy Spirit that settled on Jesus like a dove, the same Holy Spirit that raised him from the dead, and the same Holy Spirit that filled Jesus with joy.  They need followers of Jesus who are fully aware that they are seated with Christ in heavenly places, who know their Daddy will meet ALL their needs through his glorious riches, who understand that the old sinful nature is dead and buried through God’s gift of grace and our baptism and they are now an utterly new creation!  But most of all they need followers of Jesus who understand that as C.S. Lewis wrote “Joy is the serious business of heaven” and are willing and able to share that joy, that man Jesus, with them.  Misery is NOT a fruit of the spirit, but joy certainly is.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Harsh reality and future fantasy

“Harsh reality beats future fantasy at the Oscars,” one of the quotes the morning after the Oscars when the Hurt locker was awarded more Oscars than Avatar, which I believe was expected to take home quite a few shiny golden statutes. It is one of those statements that jumps out at you and stays for a while, maybe having a deeper meaning than just about film awards. I’ve been thinking, probably too much as usual, whether that is true and that the human race does prefer to focus on the harsh realities of life on the planet rather than any future ‘fantasy’ or mystery.
There certainly are harsh realities going on and war zones are more than ‘harsh’, the depth of pain, misery, trauma and shock cannot be understood even by those in the midst of them. Ethics and debate aside, the reality is there are men and women risking their lives every day for motives such as honour, justice and freedom. And in the midst of the harshest of realities the human race is stuck in its paradox of showing the very best of human nature, hope, compassion, sacrifice and love and at the same time the worst, pain, misery, humiliation and hatred. The world is a messy place, it is full of harsh realities.
In the fantasy world there are happy endings, the good guys win, time travel is possible, basic laws of science and nature are bendable if not removed, there is harmony and order, happiness and fulfilment. Children’s fairy tales, clear cut stories of good vs evil, where good always wins and evil is easily identifiable, unless they are Roald Dahl’s. Fantasy films are characterized by highly imaginative and often supernatural elements. The harsh reality is swept away in favour of limitless possibilities. I enjoyed Avatar, I like films that have happy endings. I personally don’t go to the cinema to be traumatised I go to be entertained, the whole cinema experience is about entertainment and I tend to be pretty miffed if I’ve paid to be made miserable. I can stay home and watch the news about the state of the nation, everything is bankrupt apparently, the economy, morals, education....there’s all the trauma’s in the world to watch, wars, famines, disasters or even think about some of the life journeys my friends are on, there is enough harsh reality to engage in sitting in my front room without going to the cinema to see it.
So for film choices I would always choose future fantasy over harsh reality. For my every day existence I choose the time travelling mystery. I can turn my focus from harsh realities to another reality a more powerful one, full of limitless possibilities. Where the laws of science and nature are bendable, if not removed, where there is order, liberty, joy and fulfilment and where best of all the good guy always wins and so ultimately so do I. I think from this focus I can be more effective to change the harsh realities rather than getting in there with them and shift the human paradox from hatred to love.
Easter is nearly upon us and what a story of past present and future mystery. The Word made flesh and making his dwelling amongst us, dying on a cross to pay the price for us, rising from the dead!! Come on I’m choosing this story, this reality, this victory.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sound

I find myself standing alone on a plain, there are mountains in the distance and a vast expanse of desert in front.
I hear a rumbling sound coming from the mountains and in the distance a dust cloud is forming. Something is coming, I hear the sound of marching, I see a vast army coming over the desert. As they draw closer and closer it slowly dawns on me that this is the demonic horde, marching relentlessly over the desert ground. They form a straight line in front of me, a vast ugly army filling the space in front.
I look to my left and right and there beside me is the army of the Lord. They are bright lightening white, shimmering and ready to advance. The standard is raised and they are expectant of victory and they stand. They are holding their ground. They wait for the command to advance.
Time to make the sound, I shout, the sound comes from my belly, deep and full. “Move” and in front the demonic horde is blasted like with a sonic weapon. It is the sound that destroys them. I step forward. We advance step by step and they are destroyed by the sound.
The sound we make shifts what is in front of us. Kingdom authority spoken by the saints.
Our mandate: “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.”
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Eyes

I have been having a ponder about the wonder of our eyes recently. In the film/book ‘Dune’ people are addicted to a chemical called Spice which makes their eyes shine so blue. The trailer for it showed a young girl with bright blue eyes and it set me off wondering about the brightness of eyes and what makes them shine brightly, other than good contact lens.
Physically our eyes are amazing beyond description, so magnificent, unique and beautiful. They are so complex in design they cannot be copied and surely point to a creator. They are so clever, gathering up information from two perspectives, sending it along the optic nerve for image processing, changing shape depending on the environment and guiding us through our world. A good diet no doubt helps keep them shiny and depending on your upbringing eating carrots help you see in the dark.... However our eyes are more than just one of the five physical senses, they seem to have a connection to our spirituality.
It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Can we really know something about people by looking in their eyes? Can we stare deeply into someone’s eyes and other than get increasingly itchy eyes and a sense of being uncomfortable, see something deeper? Eye contact is seen as one of the best ways to formulate trust in a relationship. Having shifty eyes is deemed to be a negative quality. Kindness, truthfulness, wisdom, laughter, sorrow, depth of love, all attributed to the eyes. Eyes, like a window, look both ways - what people see in our eyes and what we look at. Can what we look at determine the state of our soul?
Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body, if your eyes are good you whole body will be full of light. So what does that mean, if your eyes are good, I am sure he was talking more than physical excellence. Can we train our eyes to be good and can we assist them in growing brighter. There is a story in the bible about Jonathan eating honey and his eyes grew brighter, partly because the army were tired and the sugar increased their energy but also honey was linked to the word of God and revelation and we can make the link that the word of God makes our eyes shine brighter. Psalm 19:8 says that the commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Proverbs teach us that bribery makes the eyes dim –turn a blind eye! Sorrow and grief make the eyes weak and dim and hopelessness makes them fail - these are the times when we really need to find a way for our eyes to be brighter.
There are stories of God opening people’s spiritual eyes in order for them to see what was right in from of them. Balaam’s being shown the angel standing in the road, which his donkey could clearly see and was reacting accordingly, Elisha and his panicking servant whose eyes were opened to see the army of the Lord on the surrounding hillside to mention a couple.
So I read my bible for revelation and I wait for God to open my eyes so they will shine brighter but I think there is more otherwise this verse wouldn’t make any sense:
‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ‘ 2 Corinthians 4:18
How can we see what is unseen unless we have already been given eyes to see. I think one of the benefits of being born again is being given eyes to see and the spirit within me tells me where to look. Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. So for bright shining eyes believing I already have them is definitely a good place to start and using them to look at Jesus, well it doesn’t get better.

Monday, 22 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Seventeen

A day for homecomings…

I woke up about 4am to the sound of a terrific thunderstorm outside. The thunder was really loud and lasted for quite a long time – the room was lit up through the curtains by the lightening too. You could even hear the rain drumming on the hotel windows. Thank goodness we weren’t trying to take off in that – scary!

Godfrey wanted to skip breakfast this morning and have a lie in so I went for breakfast at a “Waffle House” – we’ve seen their old fashioned yellow and black sign all over as we’ve driven round. I had a waffle and bacon and a large glass of orange juice which cost me $6.25 (£4.16) – it was good surprisingly. I like bacon with syrup on it, some of my taste buds must be American.

We checked out of the hotel and went to a nearby mall to get the last few bits and bobs we needed but the mall was rubbish – there was a Macey’s and a Sears and the rest of the stores weren’t much good. So we headed for Graham and Linda’s, the folks we stayed with when we first arrived, and went to the mall near them as it’s much better. I got everything I needed (sweets, root beer and chocolate) from a big supermarket there and Godfrey finished off his banking.

After a cup of tea with Graham and Linda and one of their daughters we unloaded Godfrey’s guitar amp as they’re going to look after it for him until he comes back. I donated my remaining tea bags to them as there’s plenty at home and they’re not easy to find here.

We drove to Atlanta airport and followed the signs to the Rental Car Returns and dropped the car off with no problems. The overnight rain had cleaned the thick layer of salt and grit off that we’d accumulated on our 2,000 mile round trip. The check-in was a bit of a hassle as Godfrey had three items of hold luggage, his case guitar and the new kick drum, and my case was 9 lbs (4 Kgs) over-weight. However we switched the drum to my allowance and moved some of my heavier things into the drum bag and that sorted it out. Security was a lot easier leaving the USA than arriving in it and we were soon through.

I had a, very tasty, Jack Daniels Burger at the TGI Fridays in the departure lounge and Godfrey has the ribs, but he didn’t think much of them.

I’ve got to head for the boarding gate now as our flight leaves in an hour and half and it’s quite nice to get a seat while you wait for boarding.

This will be my last entry of the USA Blog and normal sporadic blogging will resume from tomorrow. It’s been a wonderful adventure and a huge blessing to travel with Godfrey for these last two weeks or so. Thank you Godfrey – you’re a star! I know I’ve changed and I have a sense of moving up a gear in several ways, spiritually and musically to name just two.

If you’ve been following our adventures on this blog then thank you for reading it and I hope it’s kept you informed and entertained!

USA Tour: Day Sixteen

The last full day. Some early morning church, mid-morning church, lunch, a lot of driving and a Mexican meal.

We left the house this morning at about 7am to get to Belmont Church for 7:30. My body may have been moving but my mind was still tucked up in bed snoring away. I don’t think I woke up properly until we got there! We had a few PA bits and bobs to deal with at the beginning of the sound-check but the band had gelled so well together that when it was time to start we were more than ready. The meeting room was quite full by 8:30 and although it was a fairly subdued congregation they seemed to enjoy the songs. After the Pastor had done his talk we came back on to do one more song and did “Wild Bells” – it seemed to start to break something open. We saw Kim & Skylar Walker-Smith, they’d been in the meeting and Godfrey asked them to pray for him to impart the anointing that they carry and they were more than happy to do this. They prayed some really good stuff and after we’d had a break for refreshments between the two meetings we felt like the second meeting would really pop.

The second meeting really did pop! Godfrey started with his mini-preach about Paul & Silas having a ‘lovely time of worship’ as they are busted out of jail after singing and praying; and with context Godfrey asked any intercessors in the room to come to the front to help press in for what the Holy Spirit wanted to do that morning. It was brilliant – the congregation responded to the songs and the Holy Spirit really started to move in the place. The main Pastor, who’d been away in Kansas City, arrived back in time for this second meeting and he ‘got’ it and really helped Godfrey lead the congregation and we were allowed to over-run our time quite a bit. At one point a little girl who’d come to the front and sat on the edge of the stage watching Godfrey in rapt attention stood up and walked across the stage to him and whispered something to him and Godfrey nodded, she moved past him and just stood next to him, I found out later that she’d asked “Can I stand next to you?”. Godfrey felt that there was a well in the church but that it had been capped twelve years ago; the cries of “Wake Up” from the stage in “Wild Bells” during Friday night’s “Awakening” meeting (See Day 14) were significant and that the little girl coming onto the stage was a prophetic act even if she didn’t know it, as Jesus tells Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5:41 “Talitha cumi” which means “Little Girl, arise from the sleep of death” (Amp). There was a release of the prophetic call to the land to “Wake Up” and shake off the old and ring in the new. We did indeed do “Wild Bells” again – that song has a breakthrough anointing on it.

 The Band

After the meeting we were taken by a group from the leadership of the Church to an Irish Pub in Nashville that does good food and they treated us to lunch. We had a great time with them and look forward to re-visiting Belmont Church in Nashville again and seeing how they’ve got on un-capping the well and ringing out the old and ringing in the new. They’ve got some great people there and I’m sure they’ll keep following the wind of the Holy Spirit and not let the old Hag of religion hold them back.

We then set off for the 255 mile drive to Atlanta. There was a real ease on the journey though – and although we were tired from the early start and two meetings it passed quickly and easily. The hotel Godfrey had found for a ridiculously cheap $47 dollars each overnight was really good; large clean rooms, TV, microwave, fridge, free wifi and a free business centre to print out anything you might need!

We went just across the car park to a Mexican restaurant that didn’t seem to be part of chain and we both had a fried pork dish with rice, refried beans, lettuce, guacamole etc. It was delicious and huge and now I’m stuffed full!

We’re going to meet for about 9am for breakfast then drop Godfrey’s guitar amp off and the few unsold CDs before doing a last bit of shopping and heading for the airport for 4pm.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Fifteen

A day with some sightseeing, Saturday church and Chinese food!

Today was day I could have a lie in so guess what time my body decided it wanted to wake up? 6:50am. Why does that always happen? Tomorrow morning (and it’s 11pm now as I write this) I have to be up about 6:30 as we have to leave the house at 7am so we’re at the church for 7:30 as the first service starts at 8:30am! 8:30am! On a Sunday!!! 8:30am!! I keep hoping someone will say ‘Nah….we gotcha! It’s not really on at 8:30.’ But it’s not looking very likely.

I spent some of the morning catching up on the Radio 4 comedy shows I love and have missed while I’ve been away such as “Act Your Age” and “Ed Reardon’s Week” and a new one by one of my favourite comedians “Sarah Millican’s Support Group”. She’s a very talented comic. Then Joel, our host’s 18 year old son, and I sat swapping funny comedy sketches on YouTube – we watched a lot of Python and “Not The Nine O’Clock News”.

Fred took me on a tour round old Franklin town – the site of one the bloodiest battles in the American Civil War. There’s some lovely old, by American standards, buildings in the town and the main street is almost as narrow as a British town centre but the shops are all 100% American. There are signs and monuments all over the town marking where particular battles, skirmishes and deaths of Generals took place. It's strange to try to picture this pleasant peaceful area being soaked in blood and carnage as the Confederacy finally crumbled towards defeat. It’s a miracle that the USA survived that war given that it turned neighbours and families against one another let alone towns, cities and states.

Godfrey and I then went into Nashville for another quick visit to "Fork’s Drum Cabin" and the guitar shop next door. Godfrey needed a new drum batter head for his little Ludwig kick and I needed some light jazz drum sticks for my Dad. We got a 16” Aquarian Super-Kick I and then went to a “Captain D’s” seafood fast food restaurant for lunch. I had the salmon sandwich which was actually pretty good, Godfrey’s battered fish was less so and he didn’t finish it in case it made him ill.

We got to Belmont Church for about 4:30 and the PA sound was a lot better during the rehearsal. Adam, the sound engineer, brought some excellent head phones in from home for me and they gave a much clearer and, more importantly, louder sound. I put the new batter head on Godfrey's little converted floor-tom kick and tuned it up.  It sounded fantastic.  A really deep punchy boom and from a dinky little drum. I think Godfrey's decided to bring it home with him rather than leave it here in the states. The rehearsal was a lot of fun – the band was really getting tight and used to playing together.  I've got a sound-desk mono recording of the night before - I want it just to hear my drumming and find out what mistakes I'm making so I can put them right, so don't bother asking for a copy; you won't get one!

The meeting started at 6pm and Godfrey did what he’s good at. He pushed the edges. In some places, like SloshFest, that edge is pretty far out and hard to find let alone push and in other more conventional or traditional churches pushing the edge could be just playing something that isn’t a hymn! He pitched it well tonight for the people that had come and the band sounded really good. I hope that the those attending got blessed and challenged, both together.

After the meeting Fred and Rob from Belmont took the band out for a Chinese meal at “Pei Wei Asian Diner”. It was excellent Chinese food cooked out in full view fresh for you when you order. We had a great time together laughing and telling stories to each other – there was a really good feeling of camaraderie. “The Band…Elwood….The BAND!!!”

When we got back to Fred’s I managed to call my son Paul on Skype.  He is 16 hours ahead of my current time zone, in Cairns Australia. It’s quite odd to be calling him the day before his birthday, my time, but for him it’s the middle of the afternoon of his birthday! He’s a good boy and I love him lots.

Tomorrow we do our last two meetings then we drive back to Atlanta ready for our flights home on Monday night. It would be good to finish with a bang not a whimper so I hope there’s some “Wild Bells” to be rung out tomorrow and some business to be done in Nashville by this mix of English and American musicians and singers – remember we’re ALL in the band!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Fourteen

A day for meeting some pretty cool people and busting some stuff open.

Our hosts had to leave the house at about 7:30 this morning so when we got up we were all alone apart from the little dog ‘Joy’ who is very appropriately named. Her tail never stops wagging and she always wants to play and be stroked. We left the house around 8:30 to meet top session drummer Dennis Holt who is a friend of Godfrey’s. He played on the “You’re Still God” studio album, “R U Ready?”, which was recorded live in a church here in Nashville that’s been converted into a studio, and several times at a big event in Eastbourne UK. He’s played for everyone – his MySpace page lists them and reads like a who’s who of top musicians. We met in a café called “Fido” – somewhere that isn’t a chain, at last – and I managed to get cereal for breakfast. My stomach is sick of stodgy food. It was still ridiculously sweet, everything seems to be loaded with sugar or honey or maple syrup but at least it wasn’t swimming with fat or grease! Dennis was a delight to meet, very down to earth and normal and full of good humour about the slightly crazy world of the session musician. He offered to lend me a kit if the one provided at Belmont Church tonight wasn’t up to scratch along with some top of the range Paiste cymbals and a Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum! He’d only just met me and was willing to loan me the best snare drum ever made, the make and model my drumming hero John Bonham used live! We spent a very pleasant hour or more with him and he said he may come tomorrow night – I told him to sneak in at the back as I didn’t want to know he was there or I might freeze in terror. I think that used to be true but I doubt it’d happen now but it would still be a bit nerve wracking.

After we left Dennis we headed of to meet Kim and Daniel who are leading the new Friday night ‘Awakening’ meetings that are kicking off tonight with Godfrey leading it. They wanted to meet us and get to know us a bit and share what the whole thing is about. We were going to eat early at a Mexican taco place just before noon. We met them and Daniel’s wife Elizabeth and they had two friends with them Kim and Skylar – I thought I recognized Kim but couldn’t quite work out where from. Then the first Kim said that she was Kim Walker-Smith the worship leader from Bethel in Redding. We saw her in Liverpool with our kids when they brought the “Jesus Culture” tour to the UK last year. We had a great time at lunch chatting then Godfrey and I went back to Fred’s house for some down-time before we went back to Belmont Church for 4pm to set up drums and do a sound check and rehearse with the band.

We’ve got the biggest band here that we’ve played with this trip; an electric guitar, a bass, a keyboard and three backing vocals. The drum kit was already set up when we arrived – it’s a very sweet looking and sounding Gretsch. It was set up nearly the same way as I have mine but there’s only one ride and only one floor tom. I needed to tune the snare resonant head up a lot and the floor tom batter head up a bit to get the sound I like and swap a couple of the cymbal stands over so I could get the ride into my preferred position. The Gibraltar cymbal hardware looked fancy but really isn’t very flexible in allowing positioning how you want it…I wouldn’t swap my “DrumWorld UK” stuff for it that’s for sure. The kit was a bit far back on the stage but at least it was out of the ridiculous ‘garden shed’ that the regular drum kit is stuck in. The cymbals weren’t all that hot. The Zildjian AA thin crash is particularly nasty – my lower spec Sabian ProSonix one is much better. The ride was OK but there was only one and I do like two rides, one dark and one bright. Still we’re not cutting a CD so it doesn’t really matter and I’ve certainly played much worse cymbals in my time. I put a dampening ring on each tom and that made things sound better too. The whole kit was mic’d up including a bottom and top mike for the snare!!

Look at the garden shed the regular kit is in at the extreme left of the stage.  Wow!  I'm glad I'm not in there with the ol' hag!

 We had some real issues with the PA fold-back at the beginning – they don’t have standard monitor wedges but little tiny speakers up on a stand at waist height for some of the musicians and the rest have ear-pieces!! I had to wear some “wrap-round the ear” ear buds and although they were quite comfy and the wire went down my back so it wasn’t in the way the mini-mixer I had to control what I wanted to hear was far, far too quiet. I simply couldn’t hear Godfrey’s kick drum at all and even at full volume there was barely enough vocal and guitar to enable me to follow him properly. I switched to standard headphones before we started with one headphone can on my right ear and the other partly on the left ear so I could hear some front-of-house through it. They still weren’t loud enough and when playing “Wild Bell” they fell off during rehearsal – so for that song I had to remember to put them on both ears properly for the fast loud parts so they stayed on and unhook my left ear partially for the quiet sections! What a palaver! The rehearsal went well once we actually moved on from the PA shenanigans.

At 7pm the meeting started and after the pastor welcomed everyone Kim and Daniel explained what the “Awakening” nights were all about and then they turned the evening over to Godfrey. He brought his Paul & Silas ‘lovely time of worship’ word so people knew where the evening would be going and then we started. It went really well and “Wild Bells” really broke something and Daniel asked people to line up and come and declare stuff out from the stage to ring out the old and ring in the new. At least that's what I think he said as I couldn’t hear him at all through my headphones but the song went on much longer than usual with people coming up and declaring things and us doing the “Ring, ring. Ring ring. Ring ring” part after each person spoke out. We finished with “Beep Beep” and it went really well especially as we hadn’t had time to rehearse that one. There was some business done tonight against the old hag of religion and the spirits of control and manipulation. At about 8:45 we finished and people had a chance to get some prayer and ministry and buy some of Godfrey’s CDs. The keyboard player stayed on the stage and had an acoustic guitar join her and another vocalist and they did some other worship songs for during the ministry time. I prayed with about five people and had some prophetic words and insights into their situations and prayed into them. They seemed to really do some business with God. One person I prayed with was a nine year old boy called Kyle - he was a little fire-starter - the Holy Spirit was on him all right.  When I'd prayed for him he laid hands on me and I got totally whacked.  
Three of the people had spoken to Godfrey before I prayed with them and he told me in the car on the way back to Fred’s house that they’d driven eight hours from Minnesota to be there tonight, that’s how hungry there were! They asked if he’d come to them on his next visit to the ‘states.

We had a light meal at “Ruby Tuesdays” on the way to Fred’s as it was pretty much the only place open at 10:30 then it was off to blogging and bed.

Tomorrow we’ve got a restful day, time for some last chance shopping, then we’re back for another rehearsal at 4:30 then they have a “Sunday morning” meeting on the Saturday night, starting at 6pm. So we’re doing that! They have two “Sunday morning” meetings on the Sunday morning too! Busy, busy, busy

Friday, 19 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Thirteen

A day in the capitol of American music…

We’ve had a good day in Nashville, despite a poor start with a phone call from a client in England at 3:50am USA time! I didn’t answer it and then used Skype to call back and no-one knew who’d called me. I had emailed them all saying not to call while I am away and to consider the 5 or 6 hour time difference but there you go! I managed to get back to sleep quite quickly.

We had our first visit to McDonalds of this visit to America. The hotel rate didn’t include breakfast, which was a rip-off as they neglected to mention this when we booked in, so when we got downstairs we found it was another $9 and some cents for breakfast, so we nipped out to Whacky Macky’s for a selection from their breakfast menu for considerably less. The morning was cold but the sky was utterly devoid of cloud – it looked like being a beautiful day. When we got back to the hotel I managed to Skype my lovely wife even though the hotel’s WiFi was a bit ropey then I went for a 40 minute walk to “Forks Drum Closet” which is probably the best drum shop I’ve ever seen. They have everything and I mean everything. I managed to crack my medium weight Vic Firth 5A’s the other night but I forgot to take them with me to the shop and ended up getting some 5B’s by mistake – I doubt it’ll make much difference though. They also had the excellent Sonor quick-release cymbal tops that I’ve been looking for for ages. I also got a replacement snare batter head as I dented my current one quite badly recently and it’ll be cheaper in the USA than at home. The whole lot cost me £30! The shop was an amazing Aladdin’s cave. The 40 minute walk back was good. I like to walk when I pray – I’m always pacing up and down at church and in meetings so it was great to have a good walk and a chat with Daddy.

When I got back I caught up with some email and had another chat with Mags via Facebook then had a bit of nap before we checked out of the hotel and headed out back to the drum shop in the car this time as Godfrey needed some stuff for himself and some for his son Jacob. There was a good guitar and general music store next door so we had a good look around there too before we headed out to “The Cheesecake Factory” for lunch – I’ve never eaten such a huge burger I still felt full several hours later.

We then drove out of the city a short way to go to Fred’s house, who is hosting us for the rest of the stay here in Nashville. Fred had lived in England in the past and so had picked up a taste for tea and I had the first decent cup of tea since we were with Graham and Linda in Atlanta what seems like months ago! We unloaded our stuff and chatted for a while until we needed to head back into Nashville for Godfrey to speak to a monthly meeting of a songwriters group. This was their first meeting this year. Godfrey spoke excellently about several aspects of songwriting and worship including the need for the amateur rather than the professional (meaning the amateur does it for love and with passion whereas the professional is motivated by making money) and the need for a toolkit of song types and styles, including laments, warcries, prophetic declarations, intercessory and love songs. You could see many of the people in the room were really getting some revelation. We then nipped over the road to the main meeting hall (or sanctuary as they call it here in the ‘states!) and discussed the layout we’d like for the instruments. The drum kit there really is in a shed! A sound-proofed booth with windows to see out of and head-set fold-back! Fortunately someone’s loaning another drum kit so I can be out on the stage with Godfrey as neither of us wants me in a box! It’s time for the drum sound to break out of the box and be released into the Church. No more drummers in the chicken coop!
After a light meal of soup and a half sandwich we returned to Fred’s house and I spent some time chatting drums and drumming with his son Joel who is auditioning tomorrow for a place on a music course at a nearby University. He’s one of those multi-talented guys who plays drums and real musical instruments like the keyboard!

Tomorrow morning we’re having breakfast with Dennis Holt a local professional drummer who’s one of Nashville’s top session guys. He played with Godfrey on “R U Ready” and “You’re Still God” – his drumming is brilliant and I’m looking forward to meeting him. I’d like to see his home as I believe he has a dozen or so kits and hundreds of snares – now that would be an Aladdin’s cave! Perhaps he’ll give me a few pointers to improve my drumming.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Twelve

On the road again…

Wrecked this morning when I got up at about 8:15 to shower, pack and get down for a 9am rendezvous with Godfrey, John, Dave, Paul, Woody and Brad. No sign of any of them except John. After five hours sleep I was feeling pretty rough but some cereal and a glass of milk helped. Unfortunately I missed Dave leaving as his cab arrived while I was eating breakfast and he had to go. Sorry Dave if you’re reading this. It’s been an honour and a big ol’ bundle of joy travelling with you! Godfrey turned up having sorted Dave and his cab to the airport. He’d realised that for us to pack all our luggage and the amp, guitar and kick drum and get Dave to the airport for 10am would have made the morning far too manic and could have made him late so being a generous guy he booked and paid for the cab so Dave would be on time.

We said our goodbyes to the Charleston posse (Woody, Paul & Brad) and John who was off home to England and we hit the road for our 483 mile drive to Nashville. Godfrey had got an email the night before saying that the I-40 between Asheville and Knoxville through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was completely closed due to a landslide so we had to take a detour of an extra 60 miles north on the I-26 to Johnson City from Asheville then south-west on the I-81 to Knoxville before picking up the I-40 west to Nashville. The weather was bitterly cold, there was a lot of snow on the ground and ice on the rock faces and it was overcast and tried to snow a few times. I image on a clear day in the summer this would be some of the best scenery you could drive through in America.
 Once we’d got back on track we stopped at about 2:30 for a late lunch at “Cracker Barrel” – the food is always good there although it’s pretty stodgy and I doubt it’s good for your waist-line.

We hit the road and soon crossed into Tennessee and had to move our clocks back one hour to go onto Central Time. Now we were six hours behind the UK instead of five.

The journey into Nashville was pretty uneventful but as we neared the city we had a good time praying over it, praying into the church we’d be visiting and getting ourselves into a right attitude to come and bring blessing to the city and its people.  There was also a stunning sunset ahead of us as we entered the city.

As we were a day early Godfrey checked us into a Marriott hotel near Broadway, the main street where all the bars and live music are. We had a quick meal at brewery cum restaurant he knows, which was delicious, and then headed in the car the 5 minutes to Broadway (it was too cold and we were too tired for a 20 minute walk).

We visited three or four bars, and we were good boys and drank root-beer and orange juice, and saw one exceptional band with a hugely talented young electric guitar player called “JD” who tore the place up with one of the best guitar solos I’ve ever seen. He was stunning - I wish Ethan (my 12 year old son) could have seen him, his jaw would have hit the floor. There was a proper old-timer couple in the western garb of dungarees and cowboy hat who got up and did a thumping two-step dance with solemn faces and without ever looking at each other to a few of the songs. It was quite surreal! Then we went next door to a bar that was virtually deserted – the band wasn’t as good but the guitarist was. He played a polka at tremendous speed switching his left hand from the usual under the neck and up onto the strings grip to over the neck down onto the string at high speed to get different sounds, then the band speeded the whole thing up a lot, twice. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to move their fingers that quickly.  I've only been in Nashville a few hours and I love it already.  I can see why it's one of Godfrey's favourite places.












Once back at the hotel I used $2 to wash and dry some clothes in the guest launderette as I’m running out of t-shirts. You can’t wear them twice when you’re drumming – the songs “Wild Goose” and “Wild Bells” ensure they’re too sweaty for anything but the wash bag! So on that fragrant note I bid you goodnight!

USA Tour: Day Eleven

Another strange day….

We went out for a late breakfast at “Cracker Barrel” which does do some quality American food. Grits with your bacon and biscuits is better than it sounds! There was a whole crowd of us there and the waitress was very patient with the crazies in her nice quite establishment. She had an Easter Bunny hat on with flapping ears – Godfrey was sorely tempted to get one to use during ‘Fly to breathtaking heights’! He resisted though so Nashville will be spared blue and white flapping bunny ears (he’d look right at home at SloshFest though).

Had a very dull afternoon brightened up enormously by a good conversation with my lovely wife via the wonder that is Skype; 1p per minute to the home phone and better call quality than most phones.

Some of us didn’t bother with lunch as the breakfast was so late, however our three drunk ecstatic girls didn’t get out of bed until noon-ish so Dave, Paul and Woody took them out for lunch and they all got so drunk they ended up under the table in the restaurant! Dave was the soberest one there and they had to get a wheelchair when they got back to MorningStar to get them from the car into the building!

The evening meeting seemed a lot tougher than last night. Godfrey led us in declaring out kingdom truths into the land for this area which seems to have a spirit of confusion over it. It’s hard to find your way around by car and several times people in our group have got lost on simple journeys. Even the GPS gets very confused and stalls out with the screen frozen and showing that you driving across fields (on roads that aren’t new) and showing nearby roads that don’t exist! When he declared out that the Lord calls us to be saints not knights there was a bit of a tumbleweed moment! We did break through corporately but not to the level that we had the night before. John seemed unusually sober when he spoke too. There was a feeling of resistance to the wild, free liberty of the Holy Spirit in the place. However the “Wild Bells” song does carry quite an anointing and there was at least a measure of breakthrough – I guess it’s easy to get frustrated when you know what’s possible but not every night can fulfil all your expectations. We did some serious damage to principalities and powers I think, especially when we called for and prophesied joy over the students and the next morning at breakfast we saw a whole bunch of them and a few were clearly under the influence, laughing and shaking.

After the meeting I needed to pack up my laptop, that had been used to project the words, and the cymbals from Charleston so Paul and Trey could take them back with them.

We went out for a meal (and ended up getting all lost and disoriented again as usual) and ended up in Applebee’s. The food I had was good but it was 1:30 by the time we left. When we got back to MorningStar Godfrey realized his rental car key and the room key had fallen out of his pocket. We didn’t know if it was in the car he’d got a lift in (whose owner/driver we had no contact details for!!) or in the restaurant. We called the restaurant and they didn’t know who we were (how could they not remember 16 very joyful Christians causing mayhem in their place??) and didn’t think there were any keys on the floor anywhere. We pondered what to do and decided we’d best head for the place and check ourselves even though it was now closing and we didn’t really know the way very well. We prayed on the way that the keys would be there and the place would be open and we managed to find it with only one minor wrong turn. They had just found the keys when we got there and were about to lock up! This was a major relief. However we got horribly lost on the way back – that gnarly old confusion on the land – but made it back to bed for about 3am.

Dave saw Godfrey and me and said he’d been invited to go to L.A. with John Crowder for three days so we didn’t need to take him to Atlanta in the morning as he’d fly from Charlotte and John Crowder would sort his ticket-change for the flights back to the UK. This was great for Dave and for us as it meant we could head straight for Nashville in the morning and not go via Atlanta, which if you check on a map is NOT en route!


P.S. One thing I forgot to mention about Monday night’s meeting (Day 10) was that while Dave was praying for two girls sat next to each other I joined him and then noticed a man sat a couple of seats down just watching with a mixture of emotions on his face. He was clearly attracted to what was happening but a bit scared too. I staggered over to him and asked if he’d like some prayer but that he was free to refuse if it was all just too weird for him. He said he would so I laid my hands on him and just felt the Holy Spirit wash over us and I started laughing. After a minute or two of this I just knew the reason for the laughter was that he needed a joy infusion. I whispered in his ear “This is my best prayer” and carried on laughing and he got hit. He started shaking and laughing, gently at first and then getting stronger and stronger. I started praying some truths of the fullness of the Gospel over him and we both got thoroughly clobbered. It turns out he was married to one of the girls Dave had been praying for and they’ve been married for four months. I prayed with them some more then got a crazy buzzing noise in my ear, like electrical short circuiting inside my ear canal. I asked if either had a problem with their right ear and the girl, Janet, said she had intermittent buzzing and balance problems. I laid hands on her ears and told the buzzing and balance issues to go in Jesus’ name and called for health and healing from heaven and she then stood up shook her head all around and jiggled about and said it seemed fine. She confirmed at tonight’s meeting that she’d had 24 hours without any problems whatsoever. While I was praying for her husband, David, I’d laid my hand on his knee at one point and when he went to get the car to go out for Pizza he’d run through the building, jumped down some steps and told us when he came back with the car that he’d had serious problems with his knee for quite a while and Janet said he’d limped into the meeting in considerable pain and discomfort. He’d been healed while we were praying or during the worship without him even asking Jesus to touch his knee let alone anyone specifically praying for it! Isn’t Jesus just utterly amazing?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Eleven

Sorry - didn't get to bed until 3:15am so no blog until later as we've got to go to Nashville!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

USA Tour: Day Ten

A strange day….

We met up for breakfast at the MorningStar Café and then headed down to the room we’re using for the meetings tonight and tomorrow night. The pixies had obviously been busy overnight as the room was trashed last night and this morning there were neat rows of chairs and the stage had been tidied up, the room is used for youth meetings and it seems young people are messy whichever side of the Atlantic you are! The tidy up was quite a blessing as it meant we could just get our stuff unloaded from the cars and start setting up the instruments and PA. Sadly the drum kit was a load of junk – the batter head on the bass drum was utterly wrecked as was the one first tom and it couldn’t be fasted tightly onto the cymbal stand it was hooked onto! The snare head was wrecked and the cymbals were bottom of the range cheap ones. Thankfully I brought cymbals from Charleston so I could use these. I found another snare behind the small stage and some broken drums parts that I cannibalized to repair the tom mounting, the tom was still a bit loose but at least it didn’t swing in the breeze! I spent some time trying to tune the kit, the tom had a batter head on the bottom so I flipped it over and will play it upside down. The single floor tom was ok after a bit of a tune up. It’ll sound OK for a live gig but you wouldn’t want to record anything with it.



Dave, Godfrey, John and I went out for lunch with some friends of John’s, Hilton and Kevin, who travelled in from Illinois and Nebraska respectively for the meetings! That’s commitment. We also had a guy called “T R” with us; he does the music on some of John’s CDs. We went to an “Olive Garden” Italian restaurant and got really really drunk on the Holy Spirit while we were there. Kevin and Hilton are lovely guys and I really connected with them – they’re passionate about Jesus and about worship. Hilton runs eight hour worship sessions in John Alexander Dowie’s (the turn of the 1900’s revivalist) old house! Kevin hosts what sound a bit like mini-sloshfests seven or eight times a year that attract people from all over Nebraska.


In the afternoon I sorted out the PowerPoint lyrics for the evenings meeting and had a bit of a rest up.


The meeting was due to start at 7pm and by then the only people there were the band and about half of the ten or so folks that were travelling up from Charleston for the meetings and about three other people! I was glad we hadn’t set out many chairs – the band outnumbered the crowd – we’d be taking and offering amongst ourselves and giving it to them!

By about 7:30 another 15 or so people had turned up and then we found out that because the MorningStar website said we were in a particular ball-room and there were no cars there and there was no meeting on, people thought it was cancelled! I quickly made a few signs with arrows on and fastened them up showing people where to go from the main entrance and I think someone else did the same from another entrance. When we got going I guess there may have been forty or so people in the room. Not a great turnout, but it’s not about the numbers. Godfrey did a fantastic job, bringing a sharp prophetic war-cry into the land to break open some of the things we’d seen spiritually over this area. Almost everyone in the room seemed to engage and run with it. Kevin, from Nebraska, brought a brilliant word about the principles of sowing into good land and not wasting your time and money sowing into dead land and asking God for his wisdom on which is which and our freedom to give as the Holy Spirit leads and not out of guilt or obligation. Then John Scotland spoke and was excellent, as usual, about the drunkenness and the reasons for it. He started talking about not waiting for the prayer line when a guy got up and walked to the front and asked John to pray for him now, as he didn’t want to wait for the prayer line. He was a translator for some Brazilian pastors visiting MorningStar and they’d all come along and loved it. They’d never seen anything like it in their lives. John got Dave up and they ‘ministered’ to the translator in their own inimitable fashion! He got pretty blasted!
After John finished speaking we started praying for those who wanted it and the heavy drunken glory of God came on most of those there. You could see the evening had been a life changing one for most of those attending. I think tomorrow night will be even better, assuming we don’t get thrown out for being drunk and disorderly; which we were when we got back in from supper at a local Pizza place. Oh boy. I was drunk, so very very drunk. I’ve never found it so hard to stand, sit, walk or talk. Three girls from Charlotte were so hammered Dave had to pick one up and carry her firemans-lift style to and from the cars and back to her room.

We’re living in interesting times. What God’s doing will offend many but bring much needed freedom and revelation to those able to accept it. Every major move of God in history has offended the established order. To quote John Scotland “The power of the prophetic is in the offense.” I don’t think Elijah and Jeremiah would have been very popular guys in most churches, do you?