Latest Entries »

Our God reigns…

This morning at church we sang…

Our God reigns

Our God reigns

Forever your kingdom reigns

This week I have a job interview. So often we sing of God reigning, being in control, being sovereign and what we want it to mean is that we have a God who will make life go the way we want it to go. God’s on my side, so of course I’ll get the job. It’s like we have a lucky charm to improve our chances. But surely we’re called to love and serve God just cos he deserves it, not for what we can get out of him. As I thought about this during the worship this morning, I was reminded of Psalm 23…

Though I walk through the valley of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me,

your rod and staff they comfort me still

Our God reigns…not that my life will be perfect, painless, just as I want it, but that He is with me, I am never alone, when celebrating or when I need his comfort in the storm. He sees the big picture across all of history. He knows where he needs me and when. He has a plan for my life and it may not be the ABC I expect.

So yes our God reigns…He reigns, not me…there will still be ups and downs…but I will never have to face them alone without Him.

Essence is the School of Worship and Mission run by Movement in Worship.

It was an amazing week, but I also found it a really challenging week .

On the Wednesday we took what we’d learnt out to the streets, we danced our intercessions at Edinburgh Castle and on the Royal Mile. I got really wound up about changes to what we planned to do. I felt really frustrated with our leaders, even though I knew rationally they were praying and following where they felt God leading and had the best of intentions. Reflecting on my mess of negative feelings, I wonder if actually it was a case of projecting onto them the baggage of poor Christian leadership in my last two churches. Projecting onto them the hurt and disappointment, the feeling of being let down, of being invisible, taken for granted…

Later in the week I really struggled with my feelings about my own dancing. I felt my dancing was rubbish. 10 years ago I did a dance apprenticeship with Springs Dance Company. I did the short course rather than the whole year. It was a really difficult 3 months. Everyone else had danced since they were tiny. I had done some contemporary but had never done ballet, and jazz dance was totally unnatural for my body. I struggled with learning the repertoire. The only module I excelled at was the half a term module on improvisation in worship. Despite being a Christian dance company it had the same feel of the professional dance world (I’m sure it’s the same for professional musician and artists too), the sense of comparison and a feeling of put downs. I know my contemporary dance teacher thinks I’m a beautiful dancer…but she’s one whose passion is to encourage all to dance as they are able. The sense of being a rubbish dancer reappeared during Summer School. I’ve seen enough professional dance to be able to look around and see the amazing dancer and the not very good ones. I was blinded by poor technique and missed the intercessions, prophecies and worship my fellow participants were creating. But God in his great love was so kind…over the course of the Next Wave – 72 hour worship event, I met many people from the local church and members of the Movement in Worship Collective from other parts of Scotland. Time and time again they said I was a beautiful dancer. It’s hard to believe…but at least it gives me hope…and over time will believe it. My prayer is that my technique won’t distract from Who my dance is pointing to and what it is endeavouring to communicate.

In the early hours of the Saturday morning, I was in the room where the Next Wave – 72 hour worship event was going on. I’d signed up to dance in the 11pm Friday to 1am Saturday slot. I eventually headed off to bed at 4am, having had a really significant encounter with God. I was watching as 3 other people danced, they all ended facedown on the floor…I sensed the need join them and lie facedown too. As I did I thought back over the past 10 year, in so many ways such awful and difficult years. I felt like dancing all week had removed all my layers, now the rubbish of those years was closer to the surface than before. After a bit I started to walk through those years with God, first thinking step by step through them, then moving to reflect those years, incarnating it, starting at 2006. I only got to 2008 before I was on my knees the tears pouring. When I experience God I often feel nothing, I don’t shake or fall to the ground, I might have a single tear trickle down my face. On that night the tears fell and fell…tears and snot!! I discovered that in that situation the kindest thing someone can do is hand you a tissue, and gently lay their hand on your back and bless what God is doing in you. Once the tears started to stop, I discovered that I had not just 1 but 2 people there supporting me, one of our teachers, and a man from the church who were hosting us. He told me God told him to come over, but he didn’t know why, especially as God then didn’t give him a prophetic picture to share with me…yet it was so precious to me, it meant that I wasn’t invisible, I was cared for, and there was something really powerful about a man standing with me in my pain. The next day I was almost scared to go and worship God, I didn’t want to be undone and vulnerable again. Meeting God that night was hard, but feels so significant and life changing too.

This post is the bad and the ugly of summer school…and although the feelings seem bad, God bringing them up the surface, is the beginning of healing. During summer school I applied to do the discipleship training course with Movement in Worship this year and I have now been accepted. I have a sense that it will be a season of healing and tears, as dance isn’t a mask to hide behind, but removes the layers to the vulnerable painful parts of our lives, so that God can bring healing and transformation.

 

 

Essence – The good…

Essence was a school of worship and mission run by Movement in Worship. Finally after years of it being on my radar, I got the chance to attend.

Breathing in…learning, worshipping, hanging out with Jesus and other worshippers.

Breathing out…declaring Gods blessing over our host city, bringing the God colours into the world.

Worshipping with church family from across Europe…English, Welsh, Scottish, Germans plus British with ethnic origins from around the world, a glimpse of heaven where every tribe and tongue will worship together

Intercession and prophecy…for each other, for our home situations, for our host city

Finding my tribe…other Christians with similar views to faith…creatives together rather than outsiders viewed with suspicion by the church…not just speaking, but moving our prayers and worship

Healing…facedown…undone…in God’s presence…tears and snot…processing…forgiving….

Dancing in the city and by the beach…the castle, the main street, the promenade!!

Dancing for Saudi’s and psychics, old and young

Next wave worship…72 hours to bless our God…creativity…art…colour…celebration… children and adults all joining in…

Significant…life changing!!

 

At the end of July I have the privilege of taking part in the Essence school of worship and mission run by Movement in Worship.

wp-1468414251377.jpeg

I’ve wanted to connect with Movement in Worship for years. I did a worship and mission taster weekend a couple of years ago. In fact 10 years ago I applied to do their discipleship training course. I was accepted, but my dad said if I went, I wasn’t allowed to return home. I couldn’t make myself homeless. Yet now I can draw a line under that and forgive that. I have applied to do discipleship training course this year and looking back, now is the timing, not 10 years ago. 10 years ago I hadn’t survived, workplace bullying, performance management, depression, redundancy, burn out. Now I can do discipleship training course as a wounded healer. Often I have had a sense of God saying there was “healing in the dance”. At essence I found dance removing my masks, getting to the hidden stuff, leaving me in a snotty tearful mess in God’s presence,  undone, open to his love and healing. I see this timing of doing discipleship training course part of my healing from the rubbish 10 years I’ve had.

As I met God in my snotty tearful mess, I reflected on the unfairness of a previous department writing me a bad reference and therefore losing me a job. In my view this was even worse as the person who wrote it was a christian! But then I remembered that soon after I felt God say he didn’t want me to be an Allied Health Professional anymore.

So actually both examples seemed unfair at the time…yet looking back…they just supported God’s timing for these things to happen. I can forgive both and move on, knowing God has the road map, he has plans for me and they’re plans to give me a future!!

 

Sleep

I spend my life boring the twittersphere about my attempts to get up and to go to sleep. Having recovered from my last depressive episode, sleep is still an issue.

image

I don’t know if my issues with bed are related to having depression, or simply linked to being me!!

I’m an owl. I struggle to get to bed. In part this is habit. I have noticed that it takes around 2 hours from the decision to go to bed to lights out. I sort my breakfast out, go to the bathroom, change into pyjamas… None of this takes much time. Almost inevitably I check social media, and often it’s there I get stuck. Introverting with social media helps me to unwind. I get home around 10pm from life group on a Wednesday but it is impossible to go straight to bed, I need unwind time. I usually turn lights out around midnight. I am trying a social media curfew at 11pm, it seems a realistic goal.

I currently have no trouble actually sleeping. I used the headspace app which I have a free subscription to through work. I suspect daily meditation has improved my sleep. As has stopping listening to podcasts as I fall asleep…they used to keep me awake!!

It has surprised me that I cope with getting up now I am working again. 3 alarms go off at around 7am and by 0707 I’m in the bathroom. I’ve taken to setting alarms on the days I don’t work to ensure I get up at a sensible time. Having things to get up for help too. Yesterday I struggled to get up more than the day before. I had a sense of dread. Reflecting on it, it was either the stress of meeting a friend (who kept changing the time of meeting and tends to dump her stress on everyone else) or avoiding having to do my assignment. I seems it’s harder for me to get up on days I subconsciously want to avoid something. How do you find getting up and going to sleep?

Recognise many of those in the church I just left!!

Tries to provide worship that keeps everyone happy…thus making no one happy!!

Heavy roles for wardens, head of kids work, treasurer that they are no longer volunteering but unpaid staff positions.

Distracted from mission by a large building project. “Can’t do that until we’ve fixed the roof!”

PCC meetings monopolised by a few. Minimal opportunities for congregation engagement. No guidance for PCC members on how to represent congregations views.

Small number of people getting burnt out trying to fill the rotas, without communicating to the congregation opportunities to serve! Also the danger of giving kids opportunity to serve, not because it’s a way to help them grow… But because of lack of adults willing to serve!!

All spiritual guidance provided lecture style in the service, with no visual aids. Opportunity to be in 1 of the 2 home groups but no support or guidance from the clergy for the group leaders!

Clergy so busy, with who knows what, that they don’t provide pastoral care for congregants with major issues, or even provide support and guidance to those in leadership roles! No pastoral care team for clergy to delegate pastoral care to.

I think it’s fine to have a talk on giving every 6 months….but make your point and then leave it to God…don’t reiterate your point several more times!!

Planning for a massive building project in a deprived area/congregation. Have had to dumb down plans to attempt to keep people happy, thus leaving a bland plan.

A few people monopolise, a few roles. It’s like that’s where they get their power, value and significance!

 

Saint Teddy's Church

There are literally hundreds of articles about why people leave a particular church. I suggest that often it is a case of the church leaving the congregant and as a result the congregant either moves to a different church or becomes one of the increasingly vast legion of the unchurched. This is not strictly my personal view, but one my fellow church members have talked to me about as they went out the door and have not returned.

A church leaves a congregant when the church:

1. Tries to be liturgically all things to all people at the same time without either providing assistance in making a liturgical change, providing different liturgical experiences, or refusing to change. Traditionally oriented (often older and cradle to grave individuals) no longer feel comfortable. Not so traditional congregants feel forced to follow a liturgy that does not recognize their newness or their desire to…

View original post 331 more words

How could the church embrace the arts!!

Betty Virago

I was sitting in church doing my knitting this morning (I can knit and worship, can’t I?) and pondering my intern year, which has been the focus of my attention for some time now.

What if the church hired a textile intern?

My Uni friend Sarah, once pondered a similar idea, what if architects had a textile intern and I think the savvy ones do. I mean, when they’re planning the interior of a building don’t they consult a textile designer? How else would they figure out how to put lighting in carpets unless they asked the textile designer who knows the answer?

But church, is this too far out of the box?

What if my church, The Salvation Army, hired me as an intern for a year?

Well, the cynics among us would suggest the uniforms would be better made. The material might change to a washable, yet not…

View original post 565 more words

How to meet people in a new city

This morning I was interviewed on Radio 4’s Woman’s hour as they were talking about social isolation in women in their 20’s and 30’s when they move house.
image

My experience was that when I returned to Birmingham after 7 years away, only a handful of my friends were left. I looked for a church where I could settle and make friends. I also actively looked for opportunities to get support and community. As I said in the interview I went to a church project where I was told I could stay for a cuppa this time, but am not welcome to return as I’m not over 75. On another occasion I asked at my GP if they have an benefits advisor that came to the practice, to advised to go to the Children’s Centre; I don’t have any children!

image

When students move away from home for the first time they have freshers week and everyone is in the same boat. When people become parents for the first time there are NCT groups and stay and play groups where parents can meet other parents and children. Social isolation is being recognised more and more in those over 75 but the lack of community for those in their 20’s and 30’s is rarely recognised or spoken of. image

I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to in the interview so I thought I’d write down my tips….

  1. As a Christian trying out a few churches in order to find a church to settle in was an obvious place to find a community to join.
  2. I enjoy crafts. I have enjoyed meeting people in my local Spinners Weavers and Dyers Guild. While I’ve been off sick I’ve also joined “Stitch group”. They are a group of elderly ladies that meet every Monday without fail to knit or crochet blankets for Ladywood or Ethiopia. A lot of them are widowed, so live alone, so they ignore bank holidays. Even though I am probably half their age, they make me feel very welcome.
  3. Recently I’ve discovered that there is such a thing as board game cafes and hundreds of game around, not just scrabble and monopoly! These meet up monthly, often in a bar or cafe and although a bit scary to walk into, people are very welcoming. I heard about my local ones via Facebook.
  4. Birmingham had Places of welcome – places where anyone is welcome to drop in at a certain time each week. The places of welcome often provide food for free too, toast, or soup and bread.
  5. Community cafes are another place where you can meet people and everyone is welcome. A local church has a community cafe with cheap food and drinks and a listening ear. They also have a “community lunch” option which you pay for as a donation, however big or small you feel able. Having received such a great welcome there I now volunteer in the cafe. Another option is projects like the Real junk food project where you pay as you feel (PAYF) whether in cash, by waitressing, washing up, even singing a song!
  6. In my last city I used to go to a book club run by a local restaurant. You all read a book, went for a delicious 3 course meal and then discussed the book. Book groups make me feel stupid, so the book part wasn’t really for me, but the meal and meeting interesting people was lovely. Nowadays I much prefer the idea of going to a supper club, delicious food, and hopefully interesting people, but sadly with a price tag I can’t currently afford. Another foodie themed place to meet people would be Clandestine Cake Club but as I’m brand new to baking I’ve never been.
  7. I’ve heard of a a website called Meet up which has lots of meet up groups around the UK. Its something I’ve considered going along to, but not yet had the courage, or the need to go.
  8. I’ve fancied joining the Women’s Institute for years, I went once and was made to feel very welcome, but difficulty getting there meant I didn’t return. Apparently some people enjoy meeting people in sports teams, choirs or orchestras although none of those would suit me.
  9. Another way to meet other people is through volunteering. I currently volunteer in a community cafe. It has helped me to get to know new people, both those I volunteer with and the regulars in the cafe! Charities often have social events too for their volunteers. When I worked for a charity we would have a 3 course meal each Summer and Christmas.
  10. There is community on social media too. I get a lot of peer support from other members of the mental health community on twitter, we even have tea parties! . There are also regular chats that you can be involved with for example #mhchat #pndhour or #wenurses . Social media can be a great way of finding out about local activities particularly Facebook, searching on Twitter or looking on Ravelry if it is craft related.

 

Today started with hitting the alarm lots of times; then dragging myself out of bed. I went home to my parents at the weekend, and felt well, now I feel so very tired. I have an appointment at the hospital at 11am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for phototherapy for my eczema. It’s the first time I’ve been offered this treatment, and while I can’t see improvement, lots of people have been commenting my skin looks better.  There’s a bit of a delay today as several of us arrive at once. I finish reading my book on nursing in the 1950’s. It’s only taken me around 2 months! I lost the ability to read this time last year… I am slowly regaining the ability. I know the main nurses in phototherapy, but 1 seems to be away. Another nurse says to me hello my name is__ I’m covering for __. I’m impressed. It does make a difference and I know there has been a campaign to get staff in healthcare to introduce themselves.

I get home, eat a salad, have a cafetiere of coffee and try to get my computer to see my printer. It won’t see my printer since I got Windows 10. Then drive to park to meet the other ladies from my church small group and their kids. I perch on a bench and hold babies as handed to me. I feel quite left out, the only childless, unmarried one there. I try to be friendly, but feel excluded by the conversation about weaning and horrified at the behaviour of some of the children. By the time everyone leaves I need the loo. I walk with my friend, and then have to walk back to my car. It feels a really long walk…but then they claim exercise is good for you!! I feel exhausted. My friend comments that I always psych myself up for a visit to my parents behave normally there, then return exhausted and with a dip in mood, but then bounce back. She says I can pop in for dinner tomorrow, which is amazing as I’ve been on ready meals since getting back from parents. My ability to plan and prepare meals is always a great indication of my mental health.

From there I drive to church to pray for our Sunday school with some others. I feel like a bible verse comes to mind and that God gives me a picture of a toolbox and that he will equip the leaders for ‘every good work’. Spiritual life and mental health don’t always go together; I had a psychologist in the past who I had to convince every week that I wasn’t delusional just cos I had a faith.

Once home I tidy the flat and heat up the left over ready meal. I see missed calls on my phone and a text…apparently I arranged to meet my friend for dinner but I didn’t write it in my diary and I forgot .  Feel really bad about letting my friend down. Thankfully she is fine with me and we rearrange. I have invited people over to do a ‘creative bible study’. Last time no one turned up and I felt a bit lousy. Today 1 person comes. We create art and discuss it before praying together.

Then I get on twitter. I’m the curator of the @mh_voices account this week. It’s time to start the #mhteaparty. We gather to drink tea and see how the day has gone.

How not to be…a nurse

A few months ago I was referred for Phototherapy for my eczema. Thanks to a cancellation I got to start the treatment almost immediately. 10 weeks of going to UV light therapy 3 times a week in increasing doses – Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. My assessment appointment was on the Tuesday. The treatment was explained to me by nurse from overseas, who was lovely and friendly but whose English wasn’t totally clear. She was the main assistant to the main phototherapy nurse. She was lovely, showed me around and talked me through an out of date, badly photocopied handout, correcting some of the details along the way as there is now new research.

On my first session I walked in and was told me to go into the changing room, take all my clothes off and put on a hospital gown with then opening to the front. All my clothes off!! That hadn’t been communicated to me at the assessment appointment. I didn’t know what to do. 2 weeks after my last period, my period had unexpectedly started. I didn’t know what to do. I indicated to the overseas nurse I had a query, but she was in a hurry to get the next person into the phototherapy machine. I came out my cubicle to ask the main nurse what to do. I was hurried back into my cubicle and told that you aren’t allowed to come out unless given permission. I tried to explain I’d started my period. I was told that for the privacy and dignity for the other patients we are expected to remain in our cubicle. Once I had my answer, I waited in my cubicle until called to go into the machine, tears falling silently down my cheeks, feeling told off. That’s not how to be a nurse.

How to be a nurse though – a bank nurse was filling in  – I walk in, she says,”My name is Marianne, I’m here to cover for R”. Such a tiny thing to say, but it meant such a lot.