Revivals!

Chester Cathedral by me

I’ve been watching a series about revivals on https://commissionthecity.thinkific.com/ [I would highly recommend it]. But what has struck me is that when revival comes certain things happen

  • people stop going to pubs
  • people stop going to sporting events
  • people only want to go to church and pray

What I have noticed about this pandemic is the order things have reopened and the things everyone, including Christians, have seen as important.

  1. Our economy – which meant certain things had to reopen even before it was probably safe to do so and those things are:
  • Firstly large sporting events that bring in lots of advertising revenue which are being watch at home on TV
  • Second pubs, restaurants and cafes
  • shops, hairdressers, etc, etc
  • And then lastly our churches.

It seemed to me in reading about revival that no one cared about the economy. Does this mean there was a huge economic crash at this time? In Wales in the early 20th century people really were only going to work, which at the time was mainly agricultural and industry, and then going straight to church. But also at that time there was no major hospitality industry, tourist industry, no consumeristic society.

My daughter works in hospitality. If she stops work to go and pray all the time, or has to stop because no one goes to the pub because they are all praying, how will she pay her rent? And she’s not the only one.

It made me wonder if this is why we are often reluctant to pray for revival, even if that reluctance might be only on a subconscious level. The pictures we are given is of the things we know and love – hospitality industry and sporting industry – grinding to a halt. Do we really want that? As we have seen with things being lockdown for a few months the country has tumbled into recession. Do we want that?

Much as these stories of revival are totally awesome I think we need to be praying for a new picture to talk to us about revival. Someone did say to me that this pandemic and the lockdown have shown some key things – man’s fear of dying, the fragility of the economy but also our need for it, and also our individuality. Maybe our new picture for revival needs to be about tackling those issues rather than bringing down the economy and the industries that our country now survives on.

So don’t just pray “Revival” but ask God how it would look and how our families and friends would survive through it.

The Great Pause – Sara Vian

The Great Pause – Sara Vian
(click on link to hear the song)

Sara Vian’s haunting vocals take us through the journey many of us have been on since the beginning of March; from the unexplained fears and anxieties to finding that new way of living our daily lives, and on into our hopes for the future.

The first line “she’s feeling down, she doesn’t know why” draws one immediately in to the narrative. From there the opening verse expands on what so many of us were feeling – despair and anxiety even when we were not in imminent danger – and of “having to” constantly tune into those daily broadcasts even as they stole our “peace and flow”.

In verse two there is a chance to smile at those the “inevitables” that went on – hair growing long, learning an instrument, baking – but also of the choice to change, to pause, to find a way through this; reconnecting with nature.

The last verse comes over like a prayer of hoping that things won’t go back to the busy world that used to be and that our Prime Minister will have learned from what he has been through and want to “build heaven on earth.”

The whole song sends shivers down my spine every time I listen to it and the chorus is firmly lodged in my head. I sang the lines …

“The Great Pause, The Great Awakening,

The planes are grounded, industry is shaken,

The Great Pause, The Great Awakening,

There is peace in what was godforsaken”

… to the seagulls on my morning dog walk as well as asking for us to all want to “build heaven on earth.”

I’ve reviewed this song because I know of Sara from The Write Day writing group we are both part of but also because I feel this song fits in with the posts I have already blogged and the ones I have to come, especially my next one about how people are reacting to coming out of lockdown and what they want life to be like in this “new normal”.

Fruits Of The Spirit

Photo by me by the river at Betwys y Coed, North Wales

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Galatians 5:22-23

How often have you sat in a church service and been told to ask for the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’m sure, like myself, it has been multiple times. I remember a lovely cartoon I used to watch with my kids called “Benny’s Biggest Battle” and that was all about young Benny not having any self-control and it told how he managed to acquire it. For myself I used to ask for patience regular. I was a single mum homeschooling two bright, active children. I needed that patience. And I was told, when they had been particularly trying on my patience that when you asked God for something you got tested on it.

Well following on from the Beech Clump, Mere I got a revelation about how produce growing. You don’t go up to your apple tree or courgette plant and tell it to give you apples or courgettes. You know it will give them to you in abundance if you give it the right conditions. So you need to water your plants, give them the correct fertiliser, but also clear the land of weeds and brambles to help them to grow to be what they are meant to be.

So surely if we want the fruits of the Holy Spirit we shouldn’t be asking for them but we should be clearing away the weeds, finding the correct fertiliser, and making the conditions right for them to grow. And giving them lots of water.

I know I keep banging on about QEC but it is being a great help in clearing my “land” and getting rid of the clutter that has been putting weeds around the Holy Spirit, not giving Holy Spirit enough light, having the wrong kind of fertiliser, and to nurture the real me. I’ve had to learn to love and like myself, to take responsibility for how I think and feel, clear away hindrances. Through doing all this I am finding that in a lot of areas I am kinder, more patient, more at peace, and more self-controlled. And my husband is telling me he is seeing me as kinder, more gentle, and just easier to live with.

It hasn’t been an easy route finding out what has been getting in the way and keeping out the light, and would have been much easier to blame others and give them a hard time. But then that is the same with gardening. Weeding is really hard persistent ongoing work. But the more I weed in myself the more space there is for the light to get in and things to grow to a depth that cannot be shaken.

In fact more like “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drouth and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 that Sue reminds us of in Trust

So this has left me wondering if at times we have spent more time asking for fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit and less time praying and finding out what is hindering the growth of that fruit in our lives.

Heal the Land

This picture is of Beech Clump, near Kilmington Village, Wiltshire. Back in the mid 1970s my then boyfriend’s paternal grandparents lived at Kilmington and we would go and visit occasionally. As we would drive along the B3092 from Frome he would point out a hill with a clump of beech trees on it that pushed out of the flat plains but was dwarfed by White Sheet Hill ridgeway behind it. Back then there was a large gap in the centre of the trees and Steve would tell me about an RAF plane that had crashed there killing all on board, and of how his father and his father’s friends went over to the hill, once it was safe to do so, and took away pieces of airplane. The narrative 40+ years ago was that the trees would never grow back again because of the trauma that had happened to the land. Though back in the mid 70s the word “trauma” would not have been used.

This weekend my husband and I stayed in a self-catering cottage in Mere so we could visit both our mothers who live half an hour in each direction from Mere. It was our first trip outside of Wales since lockdown so was a bit of an intrepid adventure. On our first night in the cottage we climbed Castle Hill, Mere, and as I looked over I saw Beech Clump. It now has a full head of trees and doesn’t look as if anything has happened there.

I went back up Castle Hill first thing Saturday morning just me and the dog and, as the mist was rising, looked over again at Beech Hill. I felt as if God/the Universe was saying that if we give it time then our trauma will heal and things will grow again. The traumas that have happened to us are real and they hurt a lot and we are not to live in denial of them. But given time to work through the dross, to cleanse and heal things can grow again. The deep thing for me was that nothing can grow and we cannot be all we are meant to be unless we allow ourselves time to heal. It is all about time and waiting.

Beech Clump is once again restored to being a hill with a clump of beech trees on it, but it was still the place where 20 RAF airmen where tragically killed back in 1945, which I think is even more tragic because it was so close to the end of the war. It was also very exciting to come across RAF Zeals and the Dakota Memorial, Beech Clump and find that there is a memorial to the airmen who were killed, each listed by name. So the trauma is remembered, acknowledged, but the land has healed and become all it is meant to be. That means the same can happen to me, to you, to anyone.

Thanks to John Grech publishing his article on Hidden Wiltshire about Beech Clump. Check out his post to see the photos.

Noah in Lockdown

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

I’ve been doing a bit of taking known Bible stories and giving them a “flip” sideways. I have written a tale about Adam and Eve being bored with being shut in the Garden of Eden and wanting out which is why they succumbed to the temptation of the apple. i don’t believe it came out of the blue 🙂

Anyway yesterday I was chatting with friends about Bible stories people struggle with and how much is allegorical and how much was factual. One of those tales was Noah’s ark. So I will share my thoughts

Noah’s tale

The world was a bad place. People were going about their daily lives selfishly and not thinking of each other. The economy was in bits, people weren’t caring for each other. There were wars and rumors of wars and the fears of climate change.

Noah was praying and asking God what should be done when God said to him “Gather your family around you, your sons and their wives, and gather a selection of animals and food for you all and go to the place I have for you.”

“But how long for,” asks Noah. “And why?”

“Just take them all and gather what you need and shut the doors,” said God

So Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, plus a selection of animals, at least one male and one female of each kind, went to the large farmstead they had built and padlock all the gates. As soon as they had done this the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a global pandemic. Governments across the world said people must stay at home until further notice.

One month passed and Noah and his family were getting a bit fed up of just seeing each other, of playing board games, of reading books, of making bread, so Noah asked God how long this would last and God replied, “Until it is over.” Another month passed, then another. Slowly governments start to lift the lockdowns to restart the economy. The Noah family start to kill the rapidly breeding rabbits to feed themselves and some of the carnivores. They cut the hay, milked the cows and look to the internet to see what was going on. There was the threat of a second wave and so they waited.

Ok you’re getting the picture. Noah went into the ark whilst God cleared up the world around them. Noah did not know what was going on as him and his family were effectively on lockdown. Noah also did not know how long they would all be in the ark and how much they would need to continue their lockdown.

As I chatted with my friends about this I felt we’ve had this tale sanitised in too many Sunday school classes and tried to explain it away so we like the story but if we look at it as an allegory we can see the tale as relevant for our lives today. God shut a family away together for an interminable amount of time and yet was still with them. They did not know how much food to take on the ark for themselves and these animals, but there was enough.

I believe God said to me yesterday that we are like Noah and in unprecedented times for an undeterminable amount of time, but that he is with us and there is enough to keep us going.