Thursday, 18 April 2013

Running into blanket prayers!

I was talking with friends this week about how hard it is to actually go out for a run. I know I need to do it, I can feel in my body I need to do it, even have a perverse yearning to do it - But until In lace up my trainers and force myself out of the door, 101 pathetic reasons, excuses and distractions will prevent me from doing the one thing that I know to be important!

At the start of our latest week of prayer in our home church, this runners problem is suddenly understood by all of us who have faced down the battle to shut yourself away and intercede before God!

Richard Newton, writing 160 years ago,summed up the dilemma of our circling approach to prayer and its impact well:
"The principal cause of my leanness and unfruitfulness is due to an unaccountable backwardness to pray. I can write, read, converse or hear with a ready heart. But prayer is more spiritual and inward than any of these, and the more spiritual any day is, the more my carnal heart is apt to stray from it. Prayer and patience and faith are never disappointed. I have long since learned that if I ever was to be a minister, faith and prayer must make me one. When I find my heart dissolved in prayer, everything else is comparatively easy."

Or perhaps you've heard me mention John Welch before? Welch never welched on his prayer life, and wouldn't let anything stop him praying through, even the comfort of his bed!
Keeping a blanket near his bed so that he could wrap himself when he rose to pray during the night, his wife would often find him on his knees in the early hours. Once, she complained to find him bowed low and weeping. Welch replied, "Woman, I have the souls of 3000 to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!'

Whether it's our beds, our backwardness, our general apathy and lack of urgency, or even the distraction of good things and good people - Let's resolve to allow nothing to prevent us from lacing up our shoes and running into a richer prayer life. Let's agree together to make this week of prayer more than a week of dreaminess, or even wishing we were praying, but a week of sustained work in intercession. Prayer, patience and faith are never disappointed - Blankets at the ready by your beds!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

In tribute to Brennan Manning

With real sadness I heard that Brennan Manning died yesterday. One of the greatest contemplative writers of our generation, and a wonderful mixed up enigma of a man.
After fighting with the US Marines in Korea, he became a Franciscan Priest, spent time in France and Spain, even living as a hermit in a cave near Zaragoza for 6 months! Returning to the States, his honest admission of alcoholism emerged through writing which betrayed a breathtaking understanding of the grace of Father God and His 'Abba' heart for us.

All of Manning's books are worth reading, some over again and again. His ability to cut us to the heart, strip away our pretences and leave us alone with a God who still accepts us is stunning. My favourite, 'The Ragamuffin Gospel - Good news for the bedraggled, beat-up and burned out',is as good as it gets. In tribute to a great writer and exceptional man, I can do no better than give you a flavour of his heart, which will always lead you to Abba's heart.

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last 'trick', whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

'But how?' we ask.

Then the voice says, 'They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.'

There they are. There 'we'are - the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life's tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out. Died 12 April 2013

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Conflict is......

Marriage is under pressure like never before in our culture. There are enough external pressures against this lifelong, exclusive commitment between a man and women. However, I have yet to hear of political or religious conflict breaking up a marriage. Mostly the sad stories of self destruction that we hear are rooted much closer to home - basic problems of self centredness, inability to communicate, or the struggle to handle the inevitable conflicts that arise when two independent people come together and try to do life together!

In preparing for the second session of our 'Marriage Central' series which Caz and I are teaching through at home base, I found this excellent paragraph on handling conflict. Taken from Neil Anderson's 'Experiencing Christ Together', the contrasts between destructive and constructive conflict will be helpful for all of us to embrace, whether in marriage, friendship or the work place. Remember, conflict is inevitable, conflict is not the problem or a even a sign that things have gone wrong - it's simply what you do with conflict when it happens that is the most important thing!

Conflict is………
Destructive when : Spouses don’t understand the value of conflict that naturally comes when other opinions and perspectives are shared.
Constructive when: Spouses understand the need to hear the other side so that responsible decisions can be made.

Destructive when: There is a competitive climate which implies a ‘win-lose’ situation.
Constructive when: There is a co-operative spirit & commitment to the marriage that searches for a ‘win – win’ situation.

Destructive when: ‘Getting my own way’ is all important.
Constructive when: 'Doing it God’s way' is all important.

Destructive when: Spouses employ defence mechanisms, including projection, blame, suppression, withdrawal, aggression.
Constructive when: Spouses aren’t defensive and assume that disagreements evolve from the other person’s sincere concern for the marriage.

Destructive when: Spouses are locked into their viewpoint, unwilling to consider the perspective and ideas of their partners.
Constructive when: Spouses believe they will eventually come to an agreement that is better than any one individuals suggestion.

Destructive when: Spouses resort to personal attacks instead of focussing on the issues.
Constructive when: Disagreements are confined to issues rather than personalities.

Destructive when: Personal ideas and opinions are valued over the marriage.
Constructive when: The marriage relationship is more important than the need to win or to be right.