So I’ve given up Facebook for Lent, but have actually given up posting on Facebook rather than checking it out. This is technically known as lurking. I’ve failed on a few occasions to resist the urge to press “share”, but overall I’ve found it a good discipline to self-edit my online presence a bit more than normal. I’ve never tried this before, normally I give up chocolate or biscuits and fail completely!

I’ve also just been on a silent retreat with college, where I was unable to “share” with the group my insights and thoughts and had to restrict myself to my own company. I got through it with lots of walks, reading, painting and sleep, but again it was helpful to notice how compulsive I am as an Extrovert in just sharing whatever is currently in my head on any given day!

Lurking it seems to me has some benefits. Rather than responding and sharing immediately I can think it over and reflect on what is happening. Is this me and my friends freaking out, or are we actually in the middle of something bigger that is going on. Does everyone want or need to know my political views? Maybe I should save that for Twitter?

It’s human to want to share and be part of the conversation, and in my work in the church I’ve set up a weekly drop-in so anyone who needs some company can come and have a coffee. We’ve also arranged for someone to come in and do some crafts with us after Easter, so I’m really looking forward to doing some of the stuff normally reserved for the kids!

I’ve also noticed recently how lucky I am to have the company of my family. Not always in conversation with them, (often this is really exhausting!) but like now as I write this, they are all off somewhere doing their own thing, so we are together but not really having to chat.  I think when you live alone this is the hardest part is not being quiet with anyone else. On my retreat I found the presence of my colleagues on the course really reassuring, even though we couldn’t speak to each other.

This morning at church I gave a card to lady I’m supporting who literally has noone. Her husband died at the end of last year and she has no parents, children, brothers, sisters or anyone living near her at all. It’s quite rare to meet someone in that situation, but it does happen. I have never felt so happy to give someone a mother’s day card! I can’t be with her as much as she’d like as she really would like someone as a companion 24/7 as she’s not used to being alone, but I am trying to find other people to support her, so that’s not always the case.

As a vicar, there will be a large amount of being around, rather than saying or doing much, and purposefully lurking in places where people may want a chat. In my faith journey, there’s always been times when  I’ve had to take a step back to hear from God, and part of my challenge now is to create quiet times in and amongst the madness of work, study and family life. I’m following another blogger who has just recently posted on this here..

Right when he knew he was about to be betrayed, we hear in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus took himself to a garden and prayed through the night, so late that the disciples all fell asleep. That fervent desire to be in conversation with God, is often easier when we have an urgent request, but God really desires us to speak to him alone all the time, not just when we are after something. Jesus regularly speaks from God because he is in constant dialogue with the father.

So it’s worth doing a bit of lurking around with God, he won’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with you, and any prayer you speak will not be wasted, regardless of how daft you feel doing it. The presence of God, like that of my family and friends is often something I sense but can’t quite describe why it’s important or helpful. When I get chance to really acknowledge it, and praise him for his love, it becomes more of a conversation to treasure and remember.

This Easter I’m going to be away again at college and will miss putting up all the decorations in Holy Week and being part of my church family at that time, but I am looking forward to being free to worship God with other Christians that week, when normally I’d be with the family or at work. The more time I spend lurking with other people the more opportunity there is to give and receive God’s love, which ultimately what it’s all about.

1 John 4 v 7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Family holidays

This summer has been a bit of a roller coaster time, I am leaving work to start my theology training for ordination in September, so have been on count down at work, and then enjoying some time with the family, before gearing up for the next challenge. Summer holidays are always a mix of things I think, it’s time to get to know each other again, time to notice each other’s annoying habits and time to grow together through shared experiences. (even queuing for rides at Legoland!)

This summer I took the kids camping with church to New Wine at Thirsk which felt pretty risky without my right hand man with me. It was really tiring sorting things out and doing the camp-stove cooking with the kids, but we all slept well and they loved sleeping in one big area together. The main reason for going was the teaching, and I loved being refreshed and renewed with up to date worship songs, powerful singers, and fresh new speakers.

Being back at Hollybush farm was a revelation! I went there in the 80’s whilst at primary school with a local farmer’s daughter and her family and it had an impression on me, as when I arrived back to sign-in at the office I felt ridiculously calm, happy and at peace. Hollybush is a special place, and has been a centre of worship since the 1950’s. The sense I had there though was more of being welcomed back, and remembered by a community who had met me before, and prayed for me back in the 1980’s. I know most of the elders who were there then may have not attended this particular worship meeting, but during prayer in the “hungry tent” there was a sense of being cheered on, spotted in the crowd, and encouraged by saints who were happy to see me as an adult, having met me before as a child.

During our time at Inspire, we saw lots of people receive the Holy Spirit some were trembling and shaking, like the early “Quakers” some were talking in tongues, I nearly always receive a word, or a picture, and this time was no different, in one powerful session I saw a row of slaves in chains step freely out of their bondage, and run down the hill to freedom. The kids loved their “Ground Breakers” session, seeing them grow in confidence and faith was really special. Something to do with drenching their leaders in slime?

I experienced some physical healing for the first time, and received the gift of prophetic prayer, so hopefully will now be able to confidently pray for anyone who needs a sign or word from God in his spirit.

The main thing I learnt though is that all the people who have ever prayed for me are part of my spiritual inheritance, and that God is only really interested in a bigger and better family. He’s not exclusively carving out a role for me as a leader rather using me to extend the reach of Jesus heart and hugs. God’s not keen on us using excuses for our actions, he sees us in our whole totality as perfect. That’s why, if you say “I’m rubbish at that, can you ask someone else?” he doesn’t listen! He also sees us in the totality of our christian family.  Some of the longest passages in the bible we skip over as they are just a list of names and relatives, but really this inheritance from previous generations of Christians is one of the best gifts any child (grown up or small) can receive.

A special thank you has to go to my “kin” at Clifton Church, who invited me to come along, and to David and Hazel Crosby who regularly pray with me, and this weekend were on hand at a crucial time.. when I had to get the tent back in the bag..! In their retirement years, they put the rest of us to shame, positively embracing the camping experience!