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Saturday, 9 January 2016

Past Life - Present Mission (5.1)

The Open Gate

"As long as we are alive, we are on the move. To become static is to stagnate ... life is meant to be an adventure ... In Celtic folk-tales a curse that could happen to a person was to enter a field and not be able to get out of it. To be stuck in that place forever ... The Open Gate is the call to explore new areas of yourself and the world around you." (The Open Gate, David Adam, Triangle 1994). David Adam suggests that the open gate is the choice that God is always placing before us and that we "should look upon the open gate as a way to extend ourselves and our vision ... it may take a great deal of discipline to get off the old familiar track and to break with old habits, but, in return, it offers the excitement of new ground and new vistas ..."

"Every now and again our eyes are opened and we see beyond the narrowness of our day to day vision ..." into new spiritual dimensions of awareness and experience. I was privileged to have two such experiences whilst on Celtic pilgrimage. The first, whilst staying for a few days in a remote cottage on the Island of Lismore where I had an overwhelming experience of the awesomeness of God's presence together with an anointing that led to a great rejoicing in Jesus. The second was during my 'Celtic Pilgrimage of Discovery' when I experienced a new relationship with God and his physical creation.

For us, living in the inner city, some new gates may open at a point of crisis in our lives. When we are suddenly and unexpectedly bereaved, or made redundant, or "where we are having what the world calls a breakdown". Such events make us more aware of change because they have dislocated us. Pain, brokenness and loneliness may be involved in walking through that new gate.

At St. Edmund’s at that time we seemed to be moving into a spiritual field where there were new gates before us. Inevitably there was also a variety of responses. To some, the Lord was acting as a heavenly potter bringing change and re-moulding which involved brokenness, inner healing and a move through the gate marked spiritual renewal. To others, it included dislocating experiences that re-directed that person's pilgrimage. To others again, it was a gate of deepening awareness of the plans that the Lord had for that person.

Spirituality exercises

At St Edmund’s we encouraged people to reflect on spirituality with several ‘spiritual exercises’. Here is one that you might like to try:
  • STAGE 1: Get a blank sheet of paper and write at the top of it this statement on Spirituality – “Spirituality means ... the real, the effective understanding of Christian truth and experience from within our own human awareness (or consciousness). It's ... understanding ... it's experience of God's Holy Spirit Presence ... It's an inner awareness of The Lord; and the realness (reality of) Christian faith from within the person that is YOU. It is often surrounded by or part of prayer and it's a vital part of our personal commitment to Christ. It includes our understanding of ourselves in relation to the religious and moral values we believe and/or practice!”
  • STAGE 2: Write down what you've made of it. Add anything else you think it means and especially note if you think it's left out anything that's part of it ...
  • STAGE 3: Over the next three weeks add anything else that happens to you that is within you ... your thoughts, feelings, responses to being a follower of Jesus that day ... any awareness you had of the actual presence of God. Especially, how you became aware of His presence. Put it down on your spirituality sheet. If you are a housegroup member why not have a 'chin wag' about it together, and weld it together with prayer.
  • STAGE 4: Return your sheet so that all the replies can be looked at to see if something comes out that all can share in.
As part of all that, try praying to the Lord, say at the start of the day, in a way that starts to invite Him to make you aware of His lovely presence. Or, you never know, it might be a slightly different awareness!! In my case, who knows, God (in spite of His lovely presence) may need to give a bit of a 'kick on the ankle' over something or other!

The Tysley Prayer Vigil

At our Prayer Vigil in St Edmund's, on the day the UN deadline for the first Gulf war was reached, our burden was that war should be avoided. As we moved toward the end of the Vigil, the Lord spoke to us strongly in two ways. First, He brought to our notice, through the reading of Daniel 10: 1 - 18 and Ephesians 6: 10 - 18, that the Gulf War is part of a great cosmic struggle going on between the forces of evil in conflict with the forces of light. Second, one of our ladies shared with us something that had happened to her the previous night. She was unable to sleep and as she spoke with the Lord, He gave her a message which was to 'Prepare the Way'. All of us in the Vigil then sought the Lord to ask Him to share with us what He was now saying to us as a Church, how to prepare the way. Various ones then shared the following: That the Lord was saying to us, here in Tysley, that we needed to move into a time of preparing for the Way of the Lord. That the Gulf crisis, and our legitimate concern about it, shouldn't stop us from committing ourselves as a Church to earnestly seek the Lord's face that His Spirit might start to prepare us for His work here, in the days ahead. That God was also preparing the way nationally, and internationally, for His work and will to be done, even from within the war. Preparation was what we had been told to focus upon. A new commitment to prayer seemed to be at the heart of it. The Lord had spoken to us whilst we had been in a trough. He had all sorts of plans for Tysley and local people, and we were a part of that. He wanted us to share in that, even though we were a small congregation. The example of Gideon was relevant (Judges 6 - 8). God doesn't always need masses of people to be His local commando troop but He does require those who are prepared, when it comes down to 'brass tacks', to put Him first.


David Fitzgerald & Dave Bainbridge - Though The Dawn Breaks.

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