Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hospitality, 60p and a prayer


It’s Wednesday and today is challenge day! We get given £5, £2.40 of which is for our return train fare to Leeds, the remainder is for our day in Leeds. The aim is to learn what it’s like to be very poor/homeless and to have to spend a day in the big city. Its now 1030am, only an hour and half in. The weather is nice, chilly enough for morning time but the sun pops out occasionally and its dry so one should not complain, weatherwise, it’s a good day to be on the streets. With my free metro paper from the train station and internally suppressing the need for coffee I ascertain my midday meeting point and I’m off.

Having wandered aimlessly for a bit I select one of many benches and plop down with my metro. Your typical free newspaper, some politics, some finances, some murders, some gang problems, some celeb gossip (and a ridiculously difficult Suduko puzzle which didn’t take me too long to give up on)– the normal stuff. Then I’m interrupted.

I see a man making a B line for me. Not realllly the kind of man you want to see making a B line for you. My middle class, healthy, clean 21 year old self was about to be challenged. He gets closer and continues his approach. Making eye contact I break from the norm of quickly/awkwardly looking away and reading the paper to just simply returning a warm glance trying to be open and approachable. He continues the approach, alarmingly with a bit more gusto :s all flipping 6ft 2inches of him with his red unshavened face, army jacket and general rough/ganster man. For a skinny feeble boy like me, this is quite an intimidating scene! Having run through some self-defense moves (unrealistic matrix moves naturally) in my head and ascertained my ‘if necessary’ escape route I maintain my aimed at open pretense. With a pungent smell of stale alcohol combined with urine and sweet smelling body odour the man makes his way right into my personal space and bluntly asks for some money. It’s at this point I suddenly realize I only have £2.60 to last me a day (me who eats like a horse) and I’m sitting on a bench with a bag round me and he’s towering over me, the escape plan is not going to work AND I hardly have any money to give this man. This is it. The boy who jokes about Belfast and stabbings, is ironically, going to get stabbed himself! So I politely apologise, turn on the good old Irish wit and explain that I don’t actually have much on me, and the reasons why. He lets out a disappointed (but unexpected on my part) smile and begins to make a move. However, I’m challenged. Something pulls me for more. I do have £2.60 so I ask him to have a seat and have a chat with me, honestly my aim being to decipher whether this man is going to use this money for booze or for food, I wouldn’t mind sharing a sandwich, well I would mind, but it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make. I decided however to give him 60p. Embarrassed about how little I had given the man now seated next to me, I went on to explain where I was from, what I was about and how via 24-7 prayer I had ended up in Leeds spending the day in town with only £2.60. The atmosphere’s changed though. It’s not so coldly intimidating anymore, warmer, more open, feels like 2 friends sitting on a bench having a chat as opposed to the little rich kid scared of getting stabbed scenario. I offer him my paper, he declines and keen to help him out in some other way I notice has hands. Yellow, blotchy, cold, dirty, dry, calloused, hands that have known some difficulty over the recent months. We shake hands and exchange names, noticing how cold his hands are I offer my gloves, again he politely declines. It would appear, he’s not interested in getting anymore, but was now here for the chat.

And so we chat.

For the sake of this blog we shall refer to this guy as Dan. Dan know’s all about Northern Ireland, its troubles, political struggles and current difficulties, a knowledgeable and interesting man to talk to. I don’t like talking about me to much, namely transit is taxing to explain and difficult so I turned it onto him, turns out he has been homeless for six months, he once had a house, car, job, mortgage, a wife and 2 kids. He starts to cry. There’s a painful silence. So I ask him what he does all day to try and assuage the awkwardness. He walks the streets looking for food and money and when he’s got some he gets cheap kebab meat and he honestly admits, a bottle of white lightning. He keeps talking, appearing to enjoy it, painful as it may be. He recounts how his drink problem lead to him leaving his home as he was being bad to his wife and children, I’m not sure if Dan was chucked out of house, or voluntarily left, but either way, you can see the pain in his tear-filled eyes.

Conversation continues and he talks a bit about his daughter who is 10, he obviously loves his children and his wife which lead me to question how he can just ‘accept’ this street life, I don’t mean that judgmentally, life has obviously dealt this man a bad hand but you wonder is he trying to sort it out or just accepting this is it, as some kind of self-punishment for the maltreatment of his family?

It’s getting a bit too difficult, he’s beginning to realize he has a tear stricken face and is divulging a lot of information to a stranger so he begins to make a move. Not wanting to push it too far but wanting to shed a little bit more ‘God-Light’ on the situation I tell him I’ll pray for him. Getting up, he’s stopped in his tracks, looks up at me, thinks for a minute and then asks can we pray together. I was like HAHAHA love it :) praise God. So he sits back down, grabs my hand, puts his head down and to my surprise and dismay he starts praying. It’s a strange scene to be sure, an obvious homeless guy holding the hand of a 21 year old who are both praying together in the middle of the busy high street. I had a personal triumph here however, evidence that God is actually doing something in my life. For the first time, in life, I really didn’t care what I looked like, at all, I was sitting in a public place, holding hands with a homeless guy, praying, it was just beautiful. He prayed for food, for money, for his family and then for me, simple, short and beautiful, a prayer not tainted with the stain of ostentatious religion but dripping with the painful realities and truth of life. I followed with praying for a couple of things, namely blessing I think, nothing exciting if memory serves well but concluded in the name of Jesus. We both smile. You can tell he’s thankful. We shared a little moment of heaven on the street as two equals. We close up our conversations and putting his hand on my knee he smiles once more, tears back again and says thanks. Hospitality, 60p and a pray.

To me it was beautiful, I’m reminded I’m alive.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Terrifying Holiness


Having been reading through God story and praying about personal development in my faith, one of the main themes standing out thus far has been the fear of god. The old testament god is the same today and as he was back then, he is never changing and yet I still so flippantly push my boundaries. I haven’t been a God fearing man. I often prayed about this fear that I knew I should have, but how did I get it? I was left unaware.

A common prayer theme for this 24-7 prayer week was the presence of God. It was highlighted at the eurogathering and was raised again in Exodus 33 in God story when Moses did not want to continue without the presence of God. If there is one thing this gap year has taught me thus far is that praying big is a dangerous sport.

It’s a Tuesday evening. Firey bellied, a group of young, passionate and able-bodied Christian’s set out for an 11pm worship slot. For some reason, God pressed upon me to hold back and walk down with Angelique and Sara missing out on the first ride in my friends car as she just passed her test. So breaking off from the banter and busyness I so commonly surround myself in, I held back and walked down. The walk was lovely, 3 young people, passionate about God, passionate about getting to know him and fearlessly seeking his face. We discussed ‘depth’ and coincidentally (nothing is ever coincidental when God is involved) we all felt more open and prepared to be vulnerable, so we decided to hold back after the worship with the view to some more openness and personal story telling.

The worship was electric and God-filled. Incredible. How breath-takingly beautiful it is to be in a room with about 10 different nationalities, a large age range and an acoustic guitar. Beautiful. Intimate. Romantic. Real. By about 1am the worship was over and we concluded with some personal bondage breaking healing prayer over one of our transits. This is such a hurt nation, but such a big God. Seeing this girls pain stirred me, stirring me all the more to get to grips with this Jesus who is so gentle, kind, warm and loving. We turned off the worship music so our focus wouldn’t be distracted and after a late night caffeine fix we re-entered the prayer room. Only this time with a different approach. Inspired by old testament readings God pressed upon us to bring some water and oil. Keen to discover more, we approached the cross. Back to where it all begins. With a strange and never been experienced intensity we began to pray. Driven by our hope of freedom from the desperately painful state of this world we started on our knees. We prayed the holy spirit would search us, try us, convict us of un-confessed sin, to purify us. We bowed to that cross and confessed Jesus as both Lord and Saviour. We pleaded for forgiveness and begged for purification. By 2am we individually washed our hands as a symbol of leaving our filth and mire at the cross, washed by the blood of Jesus. We remained on our knees, heads up, eyes closed, praising the name of Jesus. It’s a still, gentle atmosphere, the complex classical piano harmonies remind us of how beautiful, lovely and gentle our Jesus is but also how unworthy and distracted we are. With thanksgiving and praise we pray boldly, expectantly and with faith. Claiming ground for Christ. Proclaiming Christ’s victory. Surrendering more and more. How gentle and beautiful this was. But we wanted more. More of this lovely Jesus, so gently and repeatedly we prayed “jesus come … we invite you here … open up the heavens and let your glory descend” In this gentleness and stillness we wait. Something struck me. That shiver. That tingle. That knowledge of something ‘more’ going on. I spoke outloud “God … you are here”. At once something changed. I dropped my face to the ground in literal trembling fear, Sara screamed falling face down and Angelique the same. Silence. Heavy breathing. Shudders. A breeze from an open door. I felt Jesus in the room. I knew he was there. 2m away to my right, walking slowly around the room. Too scared to cry, gripped with fear I couldn’t move. My spine. Literally pinned to that floor face down on my knees, the only utterable word ‘worthy’. Coming from the na├»ve young and cocky 21year old who so longed to physically see the holy side of the supernatural, to be stuck face down to the ground, eyes closed as hard as they could, this was a big deal. I couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t move, could even barely speak. Unaware of Angelique and Sara I felt Jesus walk around. But … this was not the Jesus I knew. This was the real Jesus. A new revelation of what it means to really be a God-fearing man. This Jesus was powerful. This Jesus was victorious. This Jesus was terrifying holy. This Jesus was love. Gripped with fear but also love, I had the revelation that has since revolutionalized my life, I knew Jesus was powerful, victorious, I knew all this. Now, I know this. Now I know what it means to fear God. This Jesus loves me, how unworthy I am. A new revelation of grace and Gods goodness. As the physicality’s faded these revelations of grace and goodness lead us to worship, to dance, to praise, to scream, to cry, to lie down, to stand up, to jump. We eventually took it all out on the wall with a paint box. As speech and conversation returned, we shared our individual experiences. Each one exactly the same. The son of God truly was in the room. Words can’t do this experience justice. It’s changed my life. It’s kept me from indulging myself. Its lead me to pursue holiness, to really pursue God.

My only prayer is now that I’ll never forget. That I’ll never lose the wonder.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Young man working through his hopes and fears


So I've eventually caved and given into the blogging culture. Over here on the outskirts of London and life with Jesus, alot goes down. Many joys are had, many struggles are had and naturally, many lessons are learned. So i thought why not jot it down online, I got my journal but if I'm honest I'm too lazy when it comes to re-telling all the stories over again to multiple friends and family, so they'll be here hopefully (and it also gives the boiler room leaders a chance to spy on what's going on and what lessons have been learnt, or lack there of).

Life here is pretty immense. It has its highs and the occasional low but at the end of the day, I'm living for the creator and he's got it all planned out, I get the blessing of going along for the ride.

I haven't many wise words, creative expressions or talented bloggings. I'm just a young man working through his hopes and fears. Feel free to comment, criticize, challenge or encourage. And enjoy ;)

So where to begin? for now ... bed

Over and out
Mike