Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Before the Smoke...

Sobered by the London riots, we gave up our day along the Lea Valley to drive and prayerwalk around Havering both morning and evening.  It was worth it. On Tuesday night, 9th August 2011, all was quiet.  In fact, our Borough Commander reassured local people that our young people are worth praising! What an encouragement!  

Nevertheless, there is an underlying malaise on our land - fatherlessness - that needs love poured in to break it.  Many parts of East London, including our own, are orphan-hearted and abandoned.  How God wants them to experience his Father's heart and live in their true identity as sons and daughters!  Love poured in is the first step towards healing.  But what does this actually mean?  What is Father's plan? 

An orphan is a 'fatherless child'.  A heart that is orphaned is 'profoundly ruptured' from the love of a father.  Even as Christians, we are all in this condition until we experience God as our Abba - our Daddy.  Preaching from this passage"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (Jn 14.18) Charles Spurgeon spoke about the pain at the core of the orphan heart:  

"The orphan has a sharp sorrow springing out of the death (absence) of his parent, namely that he is left alone. He cannot (now) make appeals to the wisdom of the parent who could direct him. He cannot run, (as once he did when he was weary), to climb the paternal knee. He cannot lean his aching head upon the parental bosom. "Father" he may say, but no voice gives an answer." (See http://toll-booth.net/ccel/s/spurgeon/till_he_/notorphn.htm quoted in I am your Father by Mark Stibbe.)

Mark goes on to say that "the primal wound that lies at the core of the orphan heart condition is separation from a father's love", either gradually or suddenly.  He says "when a breach occurs like this it is like a tiny, invisible fault in one of the systems in a commercial aircraft...growing until it becomes a massive problem." 

We walked into that fault, that fracture, as we walked towards Tottenham Hale and the River Thames.  We felt it, we experienced it, we nursed it like a wound.  We felt it as a splinter in the land, pushing deep, causing infection and needing to be healed.

Mark identifies deep and toxic shame as something that creeps in when fathers are absent or leave..."and only our Heavenly Father's love can fill the father-shaped void in the human soul." An orphan heart leads to insecurity, fear, anxiety, mistrust, addictions... The list goes on and these profound flaws are outworked in bloodlettings of violence and pain. The 'if onlys' of negative belief come to torture and dishonour us if we don't know who we are.  Mark says this "I have come to the conclusion that...only a father can give honour to his children."

We know the truth - or do we? How deeply do we know that we're "sons and daughters of a loving Father". How much do we rest in the revelation of being "greatly loved"? How often do we live by the truth "I am ,therefore I do" and not the lie, "I do, therefore I am"? 

Our experience is that it's a rolling increasing love revelation that infuses our hearts, swelling them with increasing understanding of identity, weakening our bodies with love.  The experience is addictive.  Read Teresa of Avila's description of receiving this love from God:

Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it — even a considerable share. (from Teresa of Avila, Autobiography, Chapter 29)

Such is the Father's love for us - a great love that consumes and is sweet beyond imagining...once touched by this, our orphan heart starts to be healed and we can share love with others.  Below is a video interview by Martin Scott...part of the answer can be found among people like this...those who love despite counting the cost...

Interview with Paula Coates from Martin Scott on Vimeo.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life after Harpenden?

Ann, Linda, Sarah and I enjoying the Thursday sunshine towards the end of our walk.  However, our Wednesday had proved to be something of a battle, both personally and locationally...arriving in Hertford, our intended destination, to drop one of the cars, it took almost two hours to find a long-stay parking space with a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in between. Separation, suitable change and finding each other again were all problems we had to contend with. By the time we started walking we were exhausted! LOL!

On reflection, it seemed as if Hertford didn't want what we were carrying...maybe rightly! Our peace had fled, we were frazzled and for the first time ever, my feet didn't want to walk, they wanted to be up somewhere, resting!  Not a good start. But God was faithful as we prayed for help - our words were for us to find each other and for Holy Spirit to find a resting place - he answered...more about that later!  

We persisted knowing Papa God would equip us to do what we had to do.  Leaving the side of the river was hard - the river had permission to flow through private land but we didn't so we tramped into Welwyn Garden City's sub-urban housing towards the hospital and The Commons.  After leaving the hard pavements we turned the wrong way and had to retrace our steps to find the path alongside the A414.  Finally, however, we turned onto the bridlepath called Chain Walk which took us all the way to Hertford - bliss! 

A long and winding road...

It was warm but we had a relaxed walk alongside daisy-filled hedgerows and under beautiful trees, stopping for water every now and then.  Walking the full eight miles and arriving in Hertford to find a secret garden just for us in a pub called The Black Horse was wonderful.  Even more exciting, as we wound our way around the Hertford ring road, we found, sitting in the gateway to the town, right beside the Castle, a Kingdom work called Future + Hope.  

That night we stayed with Sarah in her beautiful house in Wheathampstead.  A delicious meal followed by Britain's Got Talent and great conversation with her husband, Tim, made it a relaxed evening.  The next morning I awoke to the rooster at six o'clock followed by a run down the garden with Sarah to let the chickens out...my idea of heaven! 

Through the Window

Breakfast with homemade marmalade and boiled eggs was followed by an extended time of soaking in his presence.  During this time with the Lord, he highlighted a contention in Hertford between control and intimacy.  Linda felt God was calling people across the river at "Heart-ford", away from control into the place of deep intimacy.  As we walked Havering, Ann had had a vision of a huge man writhing in mud, struggling to get free.  This time she saw many little men released by his freedom. Is this the church getting free and releasing others? She also felt God was speaking to Hertford out of Isaiah 52.1-8:

 1 Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendor,
Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.
2 Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
Daughter Zion, now a captive.

3 For this is what the LORD says: You were sold for nothing,
and without money you will be redeemed.”

4 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

5 “And now what do I have here?” declares the LORD.
“For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,"
declares the LORD. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.

6 Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”

7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes

Hertford is where the English church was first divided into Roman-style dioceses so what happens there could manifest hierarchy and organisation to a national level.  The following explains why.

Hertford was where the first national church synod in 673 was held after the Synod of Whitby.  It was led by Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus who created a network of dioceses in the Roman style.  This is what happened...it is well known that in 663, a council was called to settle the  Celtic/Roman church dispute - the Synod of Whitby. The Whitby Synod decided in favour of the Roman way of doing things. Soon after, the Archbishop of Canterbury died, and the English elected a successor, Wighard, and sent him to Rome to be consecrated by the Pope. Wighard died in Rome before he could be consecrated, and the Pope (Vitalian) took it upon himself to choose a man to fill the vacancy. He consecrated Theodore of Tarsus (the native city of the Apostle Paul), a learned monk (not a priest) from the East then living in Rome, who was 65 years old.  However, although a surprising choice, Theodore was (as Bede put it in his Ecclesiastical History) "the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed." 

Having made a tour of his charge, Theodore filled the vacant bishoprics and, ten years after Whitby, in 672/3, presided over the first council of the entire English Church at Hertford. He established definite territorial boundaries for the various dioceses and founded new ones. He found the Church of England an unorganized missionary body and left it a fully ordered province of the universal Church. The body of canon law drawn up under his supervision,and his structure of dioceses and parishes, survived the turmoil of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and are substantially intact today. (Paraphrased from http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/250.html)

As our call is for deep intimacy with Jesus and into our destiny as sons and daughters of the Father we were not surprised at Hertford's resistance.  While we prayed, Sarah had a vision of a fear-filled foot soldier stationed at the castle. Our mandate was to go there and tell him that the war has been won (by Jesus) and he can go home to his wife and family and enjoy the fruits of his labours.  We felt the soldier represented the church in the town and we were to say that "the voice of Love has taken away Fear."

Praying at the high flint wall of Hertford Castle

Approaching Hertford with more confidence on Thursday, we went first to see if we could connect with Future + Hope.  Lo and behold, the door opened, revealing Mark Wood, the founder, with his delightful volunteer, Amy Pearson.  Positioned strategically in the gateway close beside the Castle, Mark founded Future + Hope to "Help people in crisis gain hope and a future"  (http://www.future-hope.org.uk/). He is ably supported by others including Amy Pearson. Thank you, Amy, for taking time to allow us to pray with you and for you. You're so inspiring to be around!
Inside Future + Hope
Our next stop was Hertford Castle where we found a high flint wall on which we felt our soldier was stationed so we released him gently in the Spirit and he went home.  Praying about the establishment of the Roman ways that had so crushed the indigenous worship of these isles was amazing.
Leaving what had been a centre of our focus for some time and turning south towards London proved interesting as we detected a different feel to the land - a heaviness had lessened and we felt that Hertford would no longer dam any flow the Lord wanted to release down the Lea Valley.

Lea Valley Regional Park near Ware, Herts

We were now on our way down to the Lea Valley Park Londoners know so well - through Stanstead Abbots, Amwell and towards Broxbourne.

The Lea Navigation towards Ware

Our way was clear and flat as we meandered slowly towards St Margaret's opposite Stanstead Abbots - our final stop for this part of the Lea Valley Walk.
The level crossing at St Margaret's

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Lea Valley continuum...

Five of us met at Harpenden yesterday to continue walking the Lea Valley towards Hertford - the next stage. Sarah Holloway from Wheathampstead joined Gerry, Linda, Ann and myself as we soaked in his powerful presence before setting off.

The Holy Spirit spoke to us of repression and blankets, moth holes and purses.

Walking, our conversation turned to the new things Father is doing with his people and how we might pull his imagined future more into the present by our walking. Is it even possible to touch what he plans? Our hearts enlarged with faith as the warm ruach of Aslan comes again - blown through and on to the people of God in our time.

In a time of exilic-like difficulty, as Jesus' ekklesia begins to recognise her identity as the intended Bride, Sarah and her husband, have, like Jeremiah, sown into the poorest soil, both financially and emotionally. We too sowed and for Jeremiah's reasons. We liberally sowed the glory dust he's given us, pouring out all we have to rip up the gridlines of domination long laid down in this land. We're walking the fracture of the Danelaw that has divided our nation but within that fracture are to be found the burning jewels of his kingdom...in the midst of death we are in life!

We admitted ourselves perplexed at the God-blindness in our nation. But then I read words like this...
"...it was a delight therefore to meet two believers there, one a Pakistani, who spoke the language of those who are not overwhelmed by the odds which appear to be stacked against them but are awed by the incredible opportunities that sit on their doorstep. These are the people that gateway places need..."
Great prophetic imagination is required not to be overwhelmed...to see our time as an opportunity to change ancient mindsets and demonstrate love to the loveless.   But God! 
In this unbelieving generation (where have I heard that before?) time seems to have to accelerate to keep up with God's kingdom which must be taken by force (Matthew 11).  The wild ones, secure in God's love, give us hope.    Talking of the prophetic voices of artists and poets, like Tracey Emin, generally vilified by the church, who articulate a deep lament, opening a door to reality as we grieve, we recognise we're still in that pre-exilic season where grief has to happen.
But we rejoice as we walk our beautiful land - here a Hertfordshire path.
Which is real? Is the true reality the unseen that is so close...the rush of hope that comes as God draws back the curtain between and we come into where he dwells.  Aaah, the dazzling dark beauty cloud of his presence and glory.    Henry Vaughn said this:

There is in God (some say)
A deep, but dazzling darkness; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear;
O for that night! where I in him
Might live invisible and dim.
Here, by the River Lea...Sarah, Jane and Ann.
We've been embracing the darkness of his embers, gathering up the wildfire and throwing his dazzling glory dust wherever we've walked.
Our acknowledgement of what is real breaks open and draws us beyond the veil to revelation of what God can do.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More on the Gateway

Have already blogged on the start of the walk around Havering but here is more on how we walked…

In 2 Kings 3.27 the Israelites try to take a gateway. They fail. Why? Because the eldest son of the king they’re besieging is sacrificed by his father over the gateway. What a price for a father to pay to keep the city and what a demonstration of the power involved in blood sacrifice.

The gateway to the city controls entry and departure, allows trade and is a place of authority (legality). Our gateway, the London Borough Havering, sits in the east gate of London and the west gate of one of the eastern-most counties of England. While walking Essex we knew we had to walk the gateway eventually. Havering isn’t the only gateway of course but it's the one we live in. Linda had seen a vision of Essex on fire with the backdraft blowing into London through our gateway. She painted it for us.

We asked God to show us what he saw over Havering - we wanted to see as Ezekiel ‘saw’ when he was lifted up over Israel. Our Father showed us some of his strategy and took us on a whistle-stop tour through Ezekiel’s book, highlighting verses as we went. It’s too much to write here in full but as walkers, we carried this strategy with us.

The walkers are to be a sign of a people on pilgrimage (Ezek 11.16-18). If we are a sign, some of us may have to live this out in our own lives.
The days have gone by and some visions have come to nothing but the promise of God still stands (Ezek 12.21 & vs 27 & 28).
Have we been up to the ‘breaks in the walls’ to repair them for the sake of the house? (Ez 13.5) Or have we participated in the breaks?
The ‘elders’ came and sat down in front of Ezekiel (the people of God) to enquire of the Lord. How do we handle this? (Ez 14.3)
Ezekiel’s wife dies as a sign (Ezek 24). If we carry the grief of the death of a bride, how much more we’ll understand God’s heart for his people’s idolatry.
The King of Tyre set himself up as a god (vs2), being compared in likeness to Lucifer (vs14-17). Who or what does this represent in our borough? (Ez 28.1-2)
Will the walking watchmen be listened to? (Ez 33)
We need to contend for the release of the true shepherd, Jesus, to rescue, pasture and tend his sheep himself. (Ez 34) So, is this a question about how to ‘do church’?
Will the ‘dry bones’ live again in the breath of the Spirit? (Ez 37) Can we believe they will? Where is the Spirit moving and where is he not? We carry the Spirit of God within us – on what should we be breathing life?
We identify the bodies, bury the dead and set up markers by walking the borders 3 times and then the land will be cleansed – firstly, under the radar, identifying and mapping the land; secondly, for repentance and cleansing; thirdly, to worship and praise as a people. (Ez 39.12, 14 & 16)
Ezekiel was taken to a city on a high mountain where he saw a being measuring the dimensions of some buildings (40.2) which turned out to be the rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple – and the glory returned through the East Gate and filled the temple (43.1-5).
After the glory of God entered the east gate it was shut, because the Lord God came through it and only the prince could sit there (44.3). We want the prince to sit and inhabit this east gate. (Ezek 44.15).
A river will flow from heaven and come through the spiritual portal if the gate is opened in praise and worship. We can choose whether to be in this river or not – it will become deep enough to swim in and there will be fruitfulness on its banks (Ez 47)
The boundaries will be set by the Lord for the people groups of the Kingdom and we can allot it as our inheritance. (Ez 47.15-23)
The people of God will guard and hold the gates (Ez 48.30-35) and the name of the city will be ‘The Lord is There’.

We were overwhelmed.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It has not been entirely easy, walking the gateway.

The gate itself seems to have been covered with a thick shroud of cobwebs, rust and rotting wood. It seems to have been shut for a while...what was it the King of the Dead said in Lord of the Rings "The way is shut"? We haven't walked the path of death but we have seen it here.

This morning, before going out to walk, the Lord sent revelation about a man...the Body of Christ?...groaning in agony, clutching his hands to his belly as liquid clay swirled around him. We believe it spoke of man (as formed clay among the liquid clay of creation) with a belly (where Holy Spirit is located) groaning as he gives birth to something new.

In Romans 8.29, it says that Jesus was the firstborn among many brethren. We are his brothers and sons to the Father. That 'Body of Christ' that was born of the Spirit is groaning and writhing again as the Father gives birth to something new. As his body, we express the one who indwells us - Jesus.

We don't know where this walk will take us as part of the people of God in this area...but we are excited to be part of what God is doing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Into the Gateway

Havering sits on the land between London and Essex. In 1965, the government saw fit to move the boundaries, depleting Essex and enhancing London by creating Greater London. Havering was included in that. So, here we sit, a "swing door" between city and country. As God has shown us by revelation, the enemy seeks to control what comes in and goes out.

So, we walk - a few of God's people walking the land, under the radar, like Joshua and Caleb, spying out where there are grapes and where the giants are. We walk in joy, carrying Christ in us, our hope of glory and in humility, not seeking to build for ourselves but for his kingdom in our area. That joy is our strength...

The depth of feeling we carry is all the greater as we all hail from here - it is our land. We are encouraged by a word from a visiting prophet -

'There is a birthright for each people group in this land - a geographical birthright'

which lines up with the scripture of Acts 17.26 that God placed people in the land so they would seek him and find him. We carry the people of this borough - with their hopes and fears - in our hearts as we walk the land.

Let's carry his heavy glory around the gateway.

More walking...

The excitement of more walking approaches...I'll keep you posted!