Category Archives: worship

How this Grace thing works (2)

Guitar Study 1

(Photo credit: fmerenda)

There is a new worship service at church. It kinda hurts and feels good at the same time because it looks a bit (and feels a lot) like the kind of worship I used to go to before. The formula is familiar: worship songs, fast fast fast, LOUD, slowing… slow, slow building up to fast again. There are a lot of words about love: I could sing of your love forever, More love, more power, You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger/Your name is great and your heart is kind. The band are good (my partner is there, I can see how she is reading the room, connected with the Spirit, her fingers are fast on the fretboard). But I am anxious, vulnerable, my heart in my throat. I want to run away. My stomach twists.

What if, what if, what if God really does search you out, and know you? Run, run, run, flee from that Presence. Who can stand in front of God and live? Especially me.

I escape to the kitchen at the back, for water. I find another fugitive in there. We sip, we pause, not saying much. When she goes back to the room I find the corner of the dark kitchen, blindly. I actually open one of the cupboard doors to make the space even smaller, a hiding place. And I cry between the cupboard door and the bin from the bottom of my gut, silently. I don’t even know where it has come from but I know enough to recognise shame when I see it. And I know while I am here, unseen, unknown, I cannot defeat it. I know I must walk back out. I must be seen, known. I must choose not to be safe, alone, detached.

When I fling myself out of the door I have missed the reflection although I caught snatches of it from the hiding place: God’s love is bigger, stronger, it lasts forever. The music has started again. I find my seat. Is it too much to ask for the love to have skin on? Perhaps I should try to picture some mystical blue light, entering my soul…

As the tears threaten again, I am embraced by the friend sitting next to me. God’s love has skin on. God’s Spirit breathes as she prays for me. It is safe.

When I kneel down, Brother Jesus’s presence is in the hand of my Pastor who holds my shoulders, His voice is in hers: I’m here, it’s ok.

When I get up again to sing another sister holds my hand and we stretch our arms up together and God’s presence isn’t in aloneness, it is in togetherness.

Afterwards, I am sitting on the floor which is scattered with cushions and I begin pulling  some around me. My sisters help, building a wall of cushions around me until I am surrounded and I can lean my head on the top one and peep out. Giggling, they come one by one and fall onto my nest of cushions until we are all lying around, talking about how we should all go out together to eat sometime.

In the end, love isn’t a mystical blue light, it is the solid arms of a friend. Grace is not an untouchable concept, it is the sisters who build you a nest out of cushions, higher and higher until you feel enclosed and safe and warm.

This song, all of it:

More Posts on Middle Ground:

How this Grace Thing works (1)

Typecast?

At church at the moment we are gearing up to talk about spiritual types – both as the theme of our upcoming church retreat and as a wider theme in worship in July. There are various forms of personality “typing” out there in the secular world (e.g. Myers Briggs which is based on Jung), as well as more spiritual approaches (e.g. The Enneagram). We are using a specifically Christian framework conceived by Corinne Ware – it looks something like this:

spiritual types

Because the diagram above, by definition, is probably more attractive to someone who likes words and theories (type 1?), here are some other images that might help…

allfourtypes

Continue reading

Tagged ,

Wait – Advent Post #1

I went back to my home church to preach for the first time in months yesterday. It was the first Sunday of Advent and our theme was “wait.”  I had intentionally written a preach that was personal and which, to me, felt quite vulnerable because I included some stories about how things have been for me over the last few months with my mum’s stroke and being away from home. I talked about what waiting in the hospital relatives’ room felt like, what waiting for mum to come home felt like. I asked the question: What does waiting for God feel like?

I think waiting is an interesting concept because it feels so different depending on what you are waiting for.

There are different types of waiting. There is waiting for a bus. Which feels different to waiting for a flight that is delayed. Which feels quite different to waiting for the flight bringing a loved one home for Christmas.

There is waiting for the summer holidays, and waiting for exam results. Waiting for someone to open the gift you carefully picked for them and waiting for the Christmas pudding to soak up enough brandy.

There is waiting for a cure. There is waiting for justice.

But how does it feel to be waiting on God? Is it more like the summer holidays or the GCSE results? If you knew that God was coming tomorrow, how would you feel about it? And what would it look like? What would He look like?

wait

Image © MCC Newcastle (www.mccnewcastle.org.uk)

Continue reading

Tagged , ,