Friday, 25 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapters 10-11

Chapter 10 – Tea, biscuits & a man hug.

Minutes later, nose blown, eyes red, Dave finds himself in the foyer at the Integration point. Melinda has been reunited with Abi & they are talking excitedly. Ian & Sam are on their way over with a tray of tea & biscuits.

Jenny & Graham complete the circle, & Jenny holds out the guest slip which Melinda had completed earlier. The same lady who had handed out the pen takes it from her & introduces herself properly. She gives Melinda a booklet which tells her all about the church & some of the key things that are going on. Another friendly conversation begins.

Ian & Graham have agreed that they will meet up with Dave this coming Wednesday for an hour or so, & Ian gives Dave a book also. ‘This will help to explain some of the things that you’ve prayed today. We’ll talk about it some more on Wednesday.’ Another warm smile.

Before Dave knows what is happening, Ian grabs him by the shoulder & pulls him into a hug. Dave stands stiff, still, startled – Unsure what to do as Ian speaks in his ear about how thrilled he is to have prayed with Dave today.

Dave hasn’t hugged anyone since his Grandad died when he was still a boy. It feels so abnormal, yet he senses the ache in his heart again & hears himself saying those same words back at Ian, ‘Thank you, thank you.’

Walking back to the car with his girls, Dave can’t quite believe that so much could have changed in one morning. Taking Melinda by the hand once more, he knows that even though it seems so unreal, something very real has started – he can’t stop himself whispering, ‘Thank you.’

Chapter 11 – Dave Gets Wet

It was perfect summer golf weather when Dave & his family had first walked into Jubilee. Now on a dark, wet November morning, Dave walked in again, this time early to reserve a row of seats for his sister’s family & three of his golf buddies.

Three months of meeting with Ian & Graham & the group that met in Ian’s home - Now Dave found himself, a grown man, standing fully clothed in waist deep water.

Dave knew by now that there was so much still to learn, but he knew enough to understand that he was going to follow Jesus with everything he’d got.

Since that first heart pumping encounter, Dave had seen change after change in so many areas of his life. More importantly, Melinda & Abi had noticed it too. Most of all, for the first time he could remember, Dave knew he was loved, knew all his old guilt was gone, & he was beginning to know who he was saying ‘thank you’ to.

‘Thank you Ian & Sam for inviting us to dinner. Thank you Ian for being real at work when I asked you that first time what you did with your Sundays. Thank you Jesus for everything you are doing.’ Dave spoke bravely into the mic before Ian & Graham leaned him back, down under the water & up again.

Unsaved Dave emerged, wet, smiling, chest pumping, & looking for a new name.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapter 9 - The Prayer That Changed Everything

As soon as Dave put his hand down he began to feel stupid, berating himself for getting drawn into a crazy emotional experience. Maybe he could blame it on tiredness or some of the pressure at work at the moment?

The problem was, the preacher had seen his hand. Smiling broadly, he had just said, ‘Thank you’ – that word again. ‘We’re going to finish with a simple song but please come to speak with me if you put your hand up, I’ve got some help for you.’

With the music starting up, Ian caught Dave’s eye. Dave noticed that Ian’s eyes were wet too. ‘Do you want me to come with you mate?’ Ian asked. He had seen too – there was no way out!

Down at the front, the preacher introduced himself & explained the prayer that he had just prayed. He showed Dave a written down copy & asked if he wanted to pray it again together. ‘Sure’ Dave mumbled, his heart thumping again.

This time the preacher & Dave prayed a simple prayer with Dave repeating the words that the preacher said. ‘Thank you Jesus for forgiving me….’ Dave didn’t think that he’d been a bad guy, not in the overall scheme of things. The incident at the Harvest Festival apart, there hadn’t been many times in life where he’d felt bad about himself. Besides, there are always worse behaved people you can compare yourself to if you’re having a bad day & come out smelling of roses.

In this pregnant pause, into these thoughts came the rushing realisation that this God who was thumping on the door of his heart wanted everything clean before he came in. Then the tears came again.

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapters 6, 7 & 8

Chapter 6 – The Pen

They were welcomed again by a lady from the front. Mel put up her hand immediately when the lady asked if there were any guests here today. Dave was squirming. He wanted to stay under the radar, he had resolved the day before not to put his hand up for anything. But Mel’s eagerness brought the lady over. She simply said ‘Hi’, gave them a pen & another smile – their 1000th of the morning.

Ian leaned over to Dave with a grin & sniggered, ‘This is the moment where we ask you to write down your bank details!’ Dave tensed again until he saw Ian & Graham nudge each other & point at him. Realising that they were winding him up, Dave wondered again, ‘Don’t these guys know that they’re in church?’

Meanwhile, Mel had taken the sheet which Dave had been handed at the doors. As instructed by the lady, she was using the pen to fill in their names & email & ticking a box which asked for more information about the church. Jenny took it from her when she was done & said she would show them where to take it at the end of the meeting.

Chapter 7 – The Sermon

Like the earlier prayer, Dave wouldn’t be able to tell you later on what the sermon had been about. The preacher seemed genuine. He read from a bible, told a story that was kind of funny, then began to ask how the passage would impact his life this week at work & at home with his family.

It wasn’t so much the words the Preacher said even, but Dave just kept on hearing ‘thank you, thank you’ in steady time with his beating heart. The sense of the unknown which had overwhelmed him earlier still hadn’t worn off.

Chapter 8 – Unsaved Dave’s right hand

Here’s what happened. You see, unsaved Dave has come to church, not sure why, intrigued by Ian & Sam. He’s determined not to make a fool of himself, certainly not going to put his hand in his pocket for money, not going to sign up to any belief stuff…....just curious, ok we get it.

These undeniable facts are what made the next few slow motion moments all the more unbelievable.

The preacher is wrapping up with a prayer. Dave is thinking about lunch & wondering how an afternoon round of golf would fit into his new Sunday schedule, when he is awakened by those words again –

‘Thank you. Thank you Jesus that you died for me, gave your life for me so I could be forgiven. Thank you that you bring me into the friendship with my heavenly Father that I was truly made for. Thank you that you want to make my broken heart your home for ever. Thank you!’

‘Thank you’ Dave murmurs again, the tightness instantly back in his chest, the tears welling up again. A flurry of thoughts race through his head - ‘I’m not going to cry in church, this is stupid, I’m a grown up, I’m rational, this emotional stuff is more Mel’s thing.’

‘If you just prayed that prayer with me for the first time today & meant it, I want you to put your hand up now’. The preacher interrupted Dave’s inward thought process.

Dave had watched those documentaries on TV where people dying in hospital spoke of having an out of body experience. This was surely such a moment, as he watched his own right arm float up above his head. Dave looked on as his own hand waved in the air. It was his ring, his bitten nails, his scar where he’d sliced his finger as a 7 year old trying to cut the feet off his sisters doll – this was definitely Dave’s hand up high.

And surely everyone was looking at him. He couldn’t have been more obvious if he was wearing a giant foam hand on his arm which said ‘Look at me everyone’ in big letters!

Just as Dave was thinking, ‘How did this happen?’ The tears came. He later described is as like having a bath from the inside out. But right then, at that moment, he just felt loved by the God he had never known. That was all he could say, the sum total of his knowledge. Unknown to him, Dave had just been saved.

Friday, 18 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapter 5 - Guitar Guy, Chinese lady from Sainsbury’s &.……….God?

When Dave lifts his head up a few moments later, the seats around him have all filled up, & with a ‘Hello & Welcome to Jubilee’ over the mic, all eyes are on the front.

He can’t see a Vicar anywhere, but everyone else seems to know this guy with a guitar around his neck who is speaking. There is a palpable sense of anticipation in the room. The closest thing Dave can compare it to is that moment before kick off on the football pitch…..but this is church?

Suddenly they’re off. Everyone is on their feet, Dave & Mel stand too not wanting to look odd. The music is really ok. Even though he’d heard some on the website, he had still secretly believed it would just be organs & old ladies, or even worse, country & western. But this was good, Dave even clapped his hands & tried to sing along with some of the words on the big screen in front of them.

‘Here comes the hard sell bit where they take our money’ Dave whispered to Melinda & tensed up as baskets were passed along the rows. ‘Just let it go past you if you are a guest,’ Guitar guy said. ‘This offering is for church members, it’s a part of their worship.’

Ok, so no embarrassing moment for Dave. He felt comfortable just passing the basket along, although he couldn’t help noticing out of the corner of his eye that Ian didn’t just put his small change in. This was different from bringing a few tins of out of date soup to a Harvest Festival. ‘These guys are serious’ thought Dave.

The next 30 minutes flew by in a whirlwind. Dave had no idea really what was going on. He didn’t know any of the songs, but no one seemed to be looking at him & he just carried on reading the words on the screen. There seemed to be some phrases that looked vaguely familiar, maybe they were famous bits from the bible or something.
Either way, Dave’s impression that these guys were serious, began to morph into: ‘They are serious about Jesus. Every song, every prayer – this guy is getting some serious headlines!’

The prayers? Someone shouted out a prayer behind them as Dave & Mel grabbed each others hands again. They’d never heard praying like it. It was as though these people really believed God heard them, as though they really thought they knew Him. What was even more striking was that no one was asked to pray, no one seemed to direct them or tell them it was their turn. Dave tried to see who was in charge, but however hard he looked, he couldn’t quite work out how it all hung together.

The prayer that made them cling to each other all over again was from the Chinese lady. She was on the other side of the hall & began to shout it out in a loud voice. At least, they thought she was Chinese, until Dave saw her through gap in the crowd.

‘She’s served me in Sainsbury’s & she’s as English as I am!’ Dave whispered wide eyed to Mel as the nerves turned his stomach again. They looked around them – no one else seemed remotely concerned for the mental health of this dear lady who appeared to be praying passionately at the top of her voice in Mandarin!

Ian was in the process of leaning over to say something to Dave, when Guitar Guy spoke into the mic again. He explained that Cathy had just prayed in a new language given to her by the Holy Spirit so that she could really express her love for God in a new way. ‘Is there someone else here who can tell us all what she was saying, who is the Holy Spirit giving that to?’ Guitar Guy continued.

Then he just went quiet. It seemed like time slowed down & Dave began thinking about what medication would best help these poor people, when an older man with a white beard spoke up in a tentative voice.

To this day, Dave can’t really remember the detail of what he said. Only that he began to say thank you to God for all kinds of things in his life, his voice cracking with emotion.

It was as though all the air got sucked out of the room & Dave started sweating bullets. Every time this older guy said ‘Thank you God for forgiving me, thank you for loving me.’ It was as though a deep ache started to grow in Dave’s chest.

‘Thank you, thank you.’ Mel turned to see Dave mouthing the words quietly, tears running down his face, his hand that she was still gripping, slick with sweat.

Pretty soon, Guitar Guy asked them all to sit down. Dave, still unsure what was happening just followed suit as all those around them took their seats. His heart was still thumping & he tried to whisper to Mel but didn’t really know what words or expressions to use.

Dave had no context for this, no language, other than the crazy, growing notion that God might actually be real after all & might be……well….speaking to Dave? This is the God, he might add, that he didn’t believe existed, that he thought was probably a myth made up to help the poor, or people in less developed societies than modern Britain. Yet Dave couldn’t deny it. Here he was in church, saying thank you to God with an ache in his chest & tears in his eyes.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapter 4- Unsaved Dave's Long Walk of Fear

Taking the sheet given to him at the door, Dave moved inside, still holding Mel’s hand tightly. From the videos, they knew that the church gathered in the big netball hall. That felt like safe ground, so they headed straight there.

That was Dave’s next misjudgement – no netball hall. There were so many chairs. As they looked through the glass doors it seemed more set up for a gig than for church.

Again, they are saved from an attack of butterflies at the door to the hall by a friendly lady who asks if they want help finding somewhere to sit. Dave wants to say ‘yes’. But he doesn’t want to look like the new boy. More than this, Dave is proud of his natural masculine sense of direction. He doesn’t want to look like the kind of weak guy who needs help, especially from a lady who looks like his mum.

His moment of indecision is broken by a slap on the shoulders & a shout of ‘Hi Dave, fancy seeing you guys here!’ Turning around, Dave & Mel are thrilled to see Ian grinning at them. ‘Wow, are we pleased to see you mate’ thinks Dave – But playing it cool he simply says ‘Nice to see you too, we were just about to find somewhere to sit.’
‘Great, Sam & I are over there in the middle, come over with us - Don’t worry, we’re not too near the front.’ Ian pushed off ahead of them, seeming to know what Dave was thinking.

Ian appears to be friends with everyone as they walk through the hall towards their seats. Lots of smiles, handshakes, even a few hugs – ‘They are never doing that to me’, Dave makes a mental note.

‘These are my friends, Dave & Melinda’, says Ian every time. ‘Maybe just a handshake today though, it’s his first time in church!’ He says it with a wink & puts everyone at ease. Another couple are introduced to them nearby. ‘This is Jenny & Graham.’ More handshakes & smiles. Turning back to Dave, Ian continues. ‘Jenny & Graham have been coming here for a couple of months now, but it’s not that long since they walked in for the first time just as nervous as you two.’

‘Tell me about it!’ Graham intervenes. ‘The long walk of fear! Just 20 yards of carpet from the doors to the chair, but the most terrifying few steps of my life!’

There’s a lot of laughter, Dave laughs a bit too loud as the tension is released. He & Mel visibly relax, sitting down between Ian & this new couple. To his left, Mel & Jenny start talking like best friends within moments as only ladies seem to be able to. Dave sits back & reads the sheet he was given a few minutes earlier.

He had no idea there were so many things the church was doing in the week & out in the community. Dave had thought they just had a Sunday service. Wow, they even have football & netball here on a Sunday night. ‘I bet these Christian fellas that like to hug can’t take a proper tackle though’ he thinks to himself.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapter 3 - Unsaved Dave's Big Day Out

It’s 10.15am, Sunday morning. They’re in the car & Dave is not heading for the golf course. Mel can’t quite believe he is going through with it, but she has to admit she is kind of intrigued too. Abi is happier, now that they have looked at the videos on the website together & seen two of the girls from her netball team in the middle of all the other church teenagers. In fact, she’s been texting them ever since that breakfast conversation yesterday & they have agreed to meet her at the entrance & take care of her.

When Dave comes after work on a Tuesday to pick Abi up it’s all pretty simple – in & out – but now, as he approaches down the road he can see car park stewards before he even gets near the building.

They get waved into a space down the side by a big guy in a bright yellow jacket with a smile to match, then follow the signs back to the entrance… goes!

Although they knew it was church & not netball, Dave & Mel were quite unprepared for this. It wasn’t like any kind of church they’d ever seen before & they were struck down by first day at school nerves. Where do we go, who are we going to talk to, there are so many people who all seem to know each other, what are we doing here anyway? The unspoken thoughts made every step towards the doors slow & heavy. Dave remarked aloud to try & break the tension, ‘Golf is starting to look very attractive’.

It’s probably fair to say that if Abi’s two netball friends hadn’t come over at that moment & whisked her off, Dave would have turned around & made for the safety of the car. It was dawning on them both that this was just too big a step.

But Abi was inside now, & she seemed happy. No turning back, be a man, get through the doors. So Dave took Mel’s hand & walked through into another smile, but thankfully no awkward questions, no pressure. Just a ‘nice to see you, welcome, make yourselves at home.’

Monday, 14 February 2011

Men's & Women's English - A communication lesson for Valentines Day

I promised to post the Men's & Women's English here for Valentines Day that we used in yesterday's Marriage Matters Session.

The truth is, we fellas can't really understand the female of the species. Unless you are blessed with a Mel Gibson 'What Women Want' special sense, then it is pretty much guesswork for us men most of the time. As for the ladies....well, stick around with us guys long enough & you'll work out that our minds are pretty one round again in an endless loop

We've been trying to help couples understand one another, help them to communicate better & listen to what their partner is really saying, not what they think they are saying. The following definitions have been formed from years of extensive research amongst husbands & wives - they are listed below to help you plot a course through the miasma of male/female communication. Observe & learn, maybe even put into practise on your Valentine this evening!

Men's English -
I'm hungry = I'm hungry
I'm tired = I'm tired
Do you want to go to a movie? = I'd eventally like to have sex with you
Can I take you out for dinner? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you
May I have this dance? = I'd eventually like to have sex with you
Nice dress! = Nice cleavage!
You look tense Darling, let me give you a massage = I'd like to fondle you
What's wrong? = What stupid self inflicted psychological trauma is it now?
I love you = Let's have sex now
Let's talk about it = I'll impress you with how deep & caring I am then can we have sex?

Women's English -
Yes = No
No = Yes
Maybe = No
I'm sorry = You'll be sorry
We need = I want
It's your decision = The correct decision (mine) should be obvious by now
Do what you want = You'll pay for this later
Sure, go ahead = I don't want you to
I'm not upset = Of course I'm upset you moron!
You're so manly = You need a shave & you're sweating
This kitchen is so inconvenient = I want a new house
I want new curtains = .....& carpets...& furniture....& wallpaper
Do you love me? = I'm going to ask for something expensive
How much do you love me? I did something today you are going to hate
You just have to learn to communicate = Just learn to agree with me

Hope that helps all the lovers out there - Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5 - Chapter 2 - Unsaved Dave's Doorway

Dave & Mel drive home that night really stirred by their evening at Ian & Sam’s. The more they talk about them together, the more they agree – these guys are just so....well....attractive – that is their lives, there’s something about them, about their attitudes, their hope that get’s under Dave’s skin.

He can’t sleep that night thinking about it all. Funnily enough, Dave starts wondering about his own marriage. When was the last time he & Mel held hands & laughed all evening? He recalls gripping her hand during the Champions League penalty shoot out as John Terry ran up to the spot, but that was no laughing matter. Dave sits up in bed now, unable to stop thinking about how his whole life has become about work & how he’d never meant for it to turn out that way. He can’t help wondering if he & Mel could ever be as happy as Ian & Sam seem to be, or cynically, whether they really are all that? It certainly seemed authentic though.

Giving up on sleep, Dave wanders downstairs & goes online. Ian & Sam talked a lot about Jubilee, their friends, their lives -they weren’t pushy, but it just kept coming up during the conversation.

Dave found it easily enough, there on the first page of his Google search – He hadn’t quite remembered the name of the church right, but it still appeared in front of him. 30 minutes later, Dave had watched every video on the website, he’d even seen Ian & Sam on there talking about their small group of friends that meets in their home each week. Dave had also realised that this church meets in that community centre where his daughter Abi has netball training on Tuesdays – and that this coming Sunday they’ve got something on especially for guests.

After checking the league tables & reading the latest football transfer gossip, Dave notices it’s now nearer time to get up than bed time. Stifling a yawn, he slips back into bed next to Mel. Wearing her eye mask & ear plugs to block out Dave’s nocturnal wanderings, she remains oblivious.

Dave isn’t sure why he made the announcement at breakfast the next morning. But over his Saturday fry up he distinctly heard himself tell the girls, ‘I’m thinking of giving golf a miss tomorrow & wondering if we could maybe go & see Ian & Sam at their church down at the community centre?’

Coming next.....Chapter 3 - Unsaved Dave's Big Day Out.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Life & Adventures of David Turner - Age 39.5

Full name: David (Dave) Turner.
Occupation: Litigation Team Leader, Insurance.
Home town: Copthorne, near East Grinstead
Wants to be when he grows up: An impact sub off the bench for Chelsea.
Favourite memory: Toss up between looking down the isle on his wedding day to Melinda, the birth of their daughter Abi, or the arrival on these shores of Roman Abramovich.
Best Album & Movie: Level 42 World Machine, Godfather trilogy or High School Musical
Religious affiliation: None, it’s ok for them to believe what they want, just try to be happy, try to be good.

Chapter 1 – Unsaved Dave meets Ian

Looking back, Dave realised that he had not been near to a church since school Harvest Festival, October ’83, where he had got into some considerable trouble for rearranging the fruit & vegetables in an inappropriate display on the table near the altar. It had been worth it for the playground kudos which followed, but kind of put him off religion for a while.

Dave wasn’t unhappy, loved his wife & daughter, enjoyed his weekends & holidays – but his ideas about church began to change that Monday morning by the drinks machine in the office.

Ian seemed ok, liked his football, didn’t dress like a geek, didn’t blush deeply when he had to talk to a girl. In short, he showed none of Dave’s ‘tell tale signs of religion’, & yet when Dave asked him what he’d been up to at the weekend, Ian uttered the incredible words…’We were at Church!’

They chatted for a while, long enough for Dave to realise this wasn’t the Parish church that he’d been to as a boy, where they now only allow tinned food at Harvest. This was something altogether different, & talking about it, Ian almost seemed…well, happy. The fact that Ian could go to church with his family & come away feeling positive about himself was one of the things that Dave later realised had got under his skin.

It just seemed to gather a pace of its own from there really. Dave & Ian found themselves at the same Squash club, so began hanging back for a beer & a natter on Wednesdays after the game, unless it was Champions League night, in which case they just watched the game with the other guys in the bar. Ian didn’t push it at all, but Dave noticed that he was intrigued by Ian, by the little things he said, or didn’t say. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but by the time Ian suggested that Dave & Melinda come round to his & Sam’s for a meal, it just seemed the right thing to do.

Actually, they were in a bit of a flap that Friday evening. Dave & Mel never got invited out. Well, there were always works dos & dreadful, dire family gatherings – but apart from that they realised that they never just met up with friends. Did they really have any close friends any more? Did they even have a babysitter? In fact, Dave would never say it out loud, he realised he was pretty lonely & was rather enjoying the beer & conversation with Ian.

Sitting at the table after the meal, whilst Ian & Sam filled the dishwasher, they’re amazed to have been asked, & even more intrigued by Ian & Sam. Again, it’s hard to pin down, but they just seem very much in love, the way they talk about their family, the stories they tell about their friends. As they all loosen up over coffee in the lounge, the laughter comes, the stories get funnier, & yet some of the things they say about their life together & the God stuff are a whole new language for Dave.

Dave didn’t know it at the time, but he was already being hugely impacted by Jubilee Church, the place Ian & Sam were a part of. He hadn’t been through their doors yet, hadn’t had their welcome, hadn’t heard their preaching, nor had he read their vision & values on the website – but he had made friends with Ian & Sam. Because Ian & Sam had caught it, Dave does get the Jubilee welcome through their hospitality. Dave does hear the preaching in the simple life stories Ian & Sam share around the table. Dave does soak up their values like a sponge as he watches Ian & Sam. They are just like him & Mel, facing all the same challenges, going through all the same stuff in life, & yet they seem authentically happy & secure, content even.

Next....Chapter 2. Unsaved Dave's Doorway.