Thursday, 28 May 2009
On 28th May 1982 the God's Messengers session were commissioned as Salvation Army officers.
This means that today we have been officers for 27 years.
Officership has not always been easy but I have never wanted to do anything else with my life and I still love the opportunities it opens up for me to serve the Lord. Most of the time it is a fantastic adventure.
What would be really good is for there to be a widescale revival in the UK before we retire. So if you're listening Lord, that's in the next 15 years. However anytime now would be even more wonderful!
According to our sessional song, God's Messengers must speak the word, live the truth and love the lost. I'm still up for that. Trust my fellow Messengers are too!
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
In February 2007, whilst I was on my way to Ethiopia, my husband Alan phoned me with the the news that our new appointment was to be the Corps Officers at Pill Corps near Bristol. Although at that moment many miles apart we both felt a sense that God was definitely in this. I travelled on to Addis Adaba and whilst attending a Pastors Conference there God asked me a question, "Are there still slaves in Bristol?"
I know that this was connected with the Human Trafficking campaign that the Army was involved in. Visiting women in Ethiopian prisons and meeting a woman whose daughter was living in a forced labour situation meant that from now on the human trafficking issue was related to people I had met, embraced and prayed with. I knew the answer to the question that God asked was a definite yes, although I also knew that the slavery encountered in the city of Bristol would take many forms and would include lack of emotional and spiritual freedom.
Sharing something of this conviction with Rev Kingsley Armstrong I was invited to accompany him to Cote D'Ivoire to visit a church that had a special ministry to people caught up in prostitution. It was an amazing time. A never to be forgotten experience was walking to labyrinth of alleyways, in the area where many prostitutes work and live. Although it was day time and the sun was shining it was a desperate place. I thought my heart was going to break in two. Later in worship that night God spoke to me again. He said he had brought me to Abidjan and I had walked the streets in that city and my heart had filled with compassion. Did I have the same compassion for people in the slavery of sin in my own city and was I willing to walk the streets there like I had in Africa? Of course I answered yes.
I returned determined to do this but seemed to come across obstacles. Last summer I met Rev Dawnecia Palmer, who heads up Peacemakers Prayer Patrol and this initiative combined my two passions of reaching out with compassion and prayer. There were such a frustrating series of delays that I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to be able to obey what I really felt God had laid upon my heart to do.
Anyway, hallelujah! Last Friday I went out on my first Prayer Patrol on the streets of Bristol with Dawnecia. Prayer Patrol seeks to reduce crime and build better and safer communities through changing the spiritual atmosphere with prayer. This involves walking the streets at strategic times and praying with people that you meet. The results of the intiative have been absolutley amazing so much so that the organization has won awards from the Police.
We went out on a bright afternoon, for a maximum of 30 minutes and in that time talked with about a dozen people and had significant prayer time with three of them. Dawnecia was particularly excited that we had a conversation with a Rastafarian guy, who had always refused to speak to her before. It was just amazing how open people were to receive prayer. I am going on a night shift this week, when more people will be about.
But the great thing was to feel that I was doing what God had told me to do. I do not know what it will lead to but almost a year to the day God told me to walk the streets of my city I have done it, with his help.
Doing the will of God, doing the will of God
The best thing I know in this world below
Is doing the will of God.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
A few weeks ago at the Fulness Retreat I sensed the Spirit say that one of the things he wants to re-release in the Salvation Army is extempore and vocal prayer.
As I was waiting upon the Lord I had a picture in my mind of lots of individuals on their own in their prayer closets all praying faithfully. I felt assured that there is a lot more Salvationist praying going on than we know about. However I also felt that the Spirit was saying that these prayers need to be released into vocal public prayer.
As I have been processing this it occurs to me that this again is all part of the same call to the Salvationists to have confidence in our identity. Prayers that are not reliant on prayer books or the eloquent and uttered by anyone who felt led something that characterised our worship and was envied by many other churches.
I have a growing conviction that there has been a gagging of public prayer in the UK SA that has become a spiritual stronghold over many of our corps. I believe that in some quarters the enemy has stolen our freedom in prayer. I am on a mission to get it back.
We have all been in those meetings when prayer has been asked for and there has been that restless awkward silence, whilst everyone waits for the usual volunteers to let everyone else off the hook. When at last, they wearily get to their feet because they can bear the silence no longer, the sigh of relief from everyone else is much louder than the words of prayer uttered.
More and more, in the Army we are reading prayers from the screen, praying silently and writing things down on bits of paper to avoid the agony of the silence and to try to involve the silent majority in the prayer time. That’s Ok, there is a place for those things but we must not retreat to them because people are afraid to express their heart.
I have never liked the awkward silence and have always been frustrated by it. But of late it has become a real burden. When there is a delay in people responding to the call for prayer and you know it is not just about people becoming still enough to be led by the Spirit, I want to cry. I feel a sense of sorrow that we can’t find our voices to pray in front of one another.
Anyway in the light of this I have been praying about my own corps, which is freer than many in this area but I also know that there are many who are frustrated at their nervousness about praying in public. Anyway having prayed, shared something of my heart on this and promised that we will not railroad anyone or embarrass anyone into praying out loud we have seen some release. At least 8 people prayed aloud on Sunday morning and others in the evening meeting. I am praying for even more freedom.
I have a growing conviction that if we find our voices to pray before one another we will find our voices to proclaim salvation to the world.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
It feels like there is a lot going on in Pill Corps at present. We are launching out into new mission and prayer strategies in the corps and in the division. In the wider local church, we have been re-structuring our council of Churches and welcome two new ministers into the village. Alan is getting nearer to taking on a role in Police Chaplaincy.
Despite the fact that I have been an officer for a lot of years and been involved in planting new corps I was travelling home in the car yesterday after a fairly stressful day and realised that I have been particularly dense during the last week about spiritual warfare. By now I ought to know that Satan particularly does not like any new advances against his kingdom and will let you know that. He will seek to undermine confidence, accuse, distract, confuse and try to divide.
He won a couple of skirmishes yesterday but not the battle or the war because thankfully the Holy Spirit woke me up just in time. Anyway, Pill Corps and anyone else who is on the offensive, this is an officical Red Alert. Get your armour on.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
The door of ministry is swinging two ways at the moment. On the one hand we have been seeing a number of people coming through our doors and returning to the Salvation Army and our Corps community, after many years absence. Could it be that all that praying for the prodigals is having an affect? I think so and we should remember to give the Lord the praise.
It is a joy to embrace people back into fellowship and we are aware of the task that is ours of helping them grow and work our their discipleship with us.
On the other hand faithful prayer has opened doors to new ministry and it feels at Pill at the moment that we are just on the threshold of walking through them into the new things God wants us to be involved in. There are four particular doors of opportunity.
Relationships prayed about in cell groups and others built through vibrant Parent and Toddler group mean that we have decided that our we need to do an Alpha Course sooner rather than later. We hope to begin in early June.
As well as our youth activities at the corps developing, albeit slowly in the last few months we have been given a wonderful opportunity to get involved at the local secondary school. Among other things the headteacher has asked if would like to do hold a drop-in once a week at lunch times and get involved with young people with issues around inclusion.
3. Peacemakers Prayer Patrol
Last week we have the visit of Rev Dawnecia Palmer, who heads up a prayer initiative that
aims to change the atmosphere of our towns and cities through a Christian presence on the streets and through prayer. The initiative has been successful in reducing crime to such an extent that Peacemakers Prayer Patrol is now emerging in cities all over the UK. I am going for a days training in a couple of weeks and we are looking at how our Corps could become a prayer shield for those patrolling the streets of Bristol.
4. Police Chaplaincy
Alan has been asked to consider becoming a Police Chaplain at Portishead and maybe for a couple of other Police departments in our area. The official stuff has to be waded through and training undertaken but this should start happening in the next few months.
"See I have place before you an open door that no-one can shut. I know you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."
We continue with the rhythm of prayer that is established, believing that this is essential is we are to make the most of the opportunities opening up before us. Prayer in cell groups, Early Bird Prayer meeting, Prayer Walking, our Permanent Prayer room, prayer lists and regular Pray for a Day events all continue. A number of folk are also attending Prayer School, where a number of Bristol Corps are coming together to learn about prayer and develop a prayer team for our area. Open doors to mission come through the open window towards God in prayer.
Friday, 8 May 2009
"I know of almost nothing that makes one feel his own helplessness more than when a sight is given lof the approaching fate of so many around us, and it is as if nothing avails to awaken or save them. Our only hope is to place ourselves persistently at His feet who is mighty to save and to wait on him for the fire of his zeal and love to burn within us."
Andrew Murray (The Holiest of All)
God save us from our inconsistency in prayer. At Pill Corps we are endeavouring to build in a rhythmn of prayer that is the pulse beneath all our activity. I keep banging on at the moment that we must not be event focussed, i.e we pull out the stops for something when it is hightlighted but we forget it as soon as the "next thing" grabs our attention.
I was listening to the radio this morning to a discussion about the sales of organic foods in the UK. One speaker said that one of the reasons sales are struggling for this type of product is not that people don't believe that it is better but that for a time it was fashionable to eat organic but now in the light of the economic situation it is more fashionable to be frugal.
Too many Christians are spiritually fashionable. It is not that they think a counter to culture lifestyle is wrong but it is more fashionable to use "the lets show the world that Christian's aren't weird" method of evangelism. It's not that they think spiritual warfare isn't real any more but it is more fashionable to talk about social justice. It's not that they think making a committment to a people or a place is wrong but it is more fashionable to be led to where the action is.
Don't get me wrong I do believe that God works seasonally. There are times when he leads us to experience certain things for a season and once the season is over we will concentrate on another aspect of our faith. The difference is that he decides, not fashion. I do not believe however that prayer, feeding on his word, or holiness or being a witness for Christ are ever seasonal.
Sorry didn't mean to rant
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
I was looking through some boxes the other day and came across my Mum's autograph book, which she took with her to the Crusaders Session at the Training College in 1940 and was still using as a young Lieutenant serving in London during the Blitz.
In it some older and wiser officers wrote their words of encouragement and advice, (not necessarily original but endorsed by them) in those challenging days. They still hold true.
Low aims are greater crimes than failures.
"Set thy heart towards the highway."
"The secret of the victorious life is to say Yes to God - and to keep on saying it."
(General George Carpenter)
And I'll sign off tonight with the words that Albert Osborne contributed to the collection...
For the cross
And the Kingdom!
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
We have been at the Fulness Retreat held in Birmingham. It was a call to pray and to fast. The Holy Spirit moved among us and a good work of prayer was undertaken. During the retreat we were asked to seek the Lord about what he wants to say to the Salvation Army. It was reassuring when people reported back that the major themes were that he wants us to focus on holiness and that he doesn't want us to be ashamed of our particular calling. Anyway this is what I sensed God was saying to me about the Salvation Army.
Salvation Army. Don't hide, don't hide. You are not an underground Church. Be a city set on a hill. Declare like Paul that you are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
Pray in secret but raise an audible voice in prayer.
Reveal to the world what is truly on your heart for it. Be honest that our true mission is the salvation of souls. You are about salvation not rehabilitation. Do not hide behind a lable of good works.
Be publicaly humble and repentant.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Sorry about the lack of blogs. Life has been very hectic and in need of a break we have been enjoying a time of rest and renewal in Yorkshire and at the Fulness Prayer Retreat in Birmingham.
We returned home to a pile of post and among them was a very precious letter. During my time as a volunteer Prison Chaplain I was privileged to meet with hundreds of young prisoners and speak into their lives. One of the intitiatives begun in my time there were Chapel groups where we tried to get the lads thinking about the meaning of life, God and their future. One lad who came back in 2001/02 was Shane.
For a number of years, although we marvelled at the interest lads took in the gospel, we didn't see many get saved. Sometimes there was however a glimmer of hope. I wrote in my prayer diary thanking God that he was so interested in the message and that the gold nuggets of truth he had received among all the other information and experience. I prayed that God would gather them together and enlarge it so that he could grasp enough truth to transform everything and that one day people would be drawn to him like a gold rush.
A few weeks ago I opened a copy of Alpha News to a middle page spread telling the testimony of Shane, who had become a Christian on an Alpha Course in prison. I made some enquiries and made contact and today I received a letter from Shane.
He asks if I remember coming to his cell, sitting on his bed and praying and goes on to say, "You see God does listen to all Christians. I guess God listened to you and I'm a Christian and you know even more that he listens to you. All of the Christians who pray but think they don't do anything this is great proof that just because you don't see it happen doesn't mean he doesn't listen."
I am rejoicing with heaven for Shane but it is also a personal encouragement. The SA plant that we began and gave me the opportunity to visit the prison has not survived and you can imagine that this has been painful for us. However the promise of Isaiah 55:11 was given to us on several occasions. "So if my word that goes out from my mouth it will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Shane is part of that glorious return.
Will you be encouraged too? Keep on believing and obeying.