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A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

Finding Solid Ground

Have you ever walked along a sandy beach when the tide has just gone out, when it’s hard to tell what surface your feet find with each step? Solid, dry, compacted sand; a wet salty puddle; sinky mud… you have to consciously think about where you’re walking, make adjustments, meander around to adapt to the terrain. A far cry from walking along a straight, paved path, when you don’t really need to think about what your feet are doing at all.

To me, the last few weeks and months have felt like walking on that sand. It feels like everything has been shaken, and that merely attempting to keep walking requires concentration and effort and a lot more energy than usual. Nothing is as it was. The measures we have had to adopt in response to covid-19 have affected every aspect of our lives. Home life has changed, as we have had to adapt to either spending most of our time cloistered away with the ones we love (who also happen to be the ones who can drive us bonkers!), or to being alone. The way we connect with friends and family has changed- from the national discovery of Zoom, in all it’s useful-but-a-bit-annoying glory, to, more recently, socially distanced walks and picnics with a chosen few. Work has changed. For some, work has come to an end, at least temporarily. Others are trying to juggle working at home with home schooling. Those of us in charge of businesses and workplaces are having to constantly adapt and refine our ways of working to cope with latest guidelines and developments. Church has changed, moving into homes and online into Zoom calls and YouTube services and live Facebook streams.

Against this backdrop came the killing of George Floyd, the catalyst for the release of a tsunami of pent-up hurt and anger and frustration across the world. That event, and varying reactions to it, prompted the beginning of a series of conversations in our multicultural church. Watching those conversations on the television, and having them myself with my black friends, has been challenging, uncomfortable, and revelatory. As shocking and awful as the video from the USA was, it seemed somewhat removed from the situation here in the UK. What has opened my eyes and broken my heart is hearing about the everyday lived experiences of black people in our own communities. Watching the youth pastor speak of his worries about his children’s future with tears rolling down his cheeks. Seeing a confident young man lost for words and choked with emotion trying to express how the drip, drip, drip of casual, covert racism has affected every area of his life. Hearing about a side of my black friends’ lives that, to my shame, I had never really thought about before. Listening to stories, and feelings and emotions that have been long suppressed but are now resurfacing. Scratch the surface and there is so much hurt and pain; this seems to be the big social justice issue that has been right under our noses this whole time but rarely acknowledged, let alone discussed. It feels like we are at a momentous cross-roads, at the beginning of a journey of listening, repentance where needed, reconciliation and change. It will likely be bumpy and difficult in places but we trust that it will lead us to a better place than where we are now.

All of these things can leave us feeling like the ground is shifting beneath our feet. It can be disorientating and unsettling. This morning I woke up and knew that I needed a bit of a reset. I’ve written before about my favourite way to get my head around tricky stuff– trainers, headphones, worship playlist, Mote Park. I love how the park is always there, a constant, despite changing weather and seasons and degrees of busyness. I find walking the familiar paths whilst praying and worshipping helps soothe my soul, order my thoughts, and listen to God. Today was no exception. I was reminded once again of the importance, especially in times of turmoil, of focussing on the constants, on eternal truths that never change.

God is good.

Praise the Lord because He is good. Sing praises to our God. It is good and pleasant to praise Him.

Psalm 147:1, ERV

God is faithful- He always keeps His promises, and is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.

1 Chronicles 16:34, NLT

Nothing can change His love for us. He looks at us and loves us- no matter who we are, how we behave, what the colour of our skin may be, or what language we speak- and nothing we do can make Him love us any more, or less.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35-39, NLT

So rather than focus on the shaking ground, the shifting sand, I am going to make a conscious decision to try and keep my gaze fixed on Jesus, who never changes and will never let me down or let me sink.

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For Such a Time as This- a Princess Project Update

Jordan and Louis rainbowArtwork by Jordan and Louis 

This morning, I suspect along with a significant proportion of the nation, I find myself feeling more than a bit unsettled. Life as we know it has completely changed. Our Prime Minister is seriously ill in intensive care. People I know have lost loved ones. The need around me is huge. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed.

Breathe. Pray. Reflect.

So much has happened over the last couple of weeks. I feel out of sync with much of the world, whose pace of life has slowed to a snail’s pace; we have been so busy at the Princess Project that I realise I haven’t really given myself much time or space to think, and adjust. But as it all started to catch up with me this morning, and I did think, and cried, and prayed- I was struck by how much I can see God at work.

Right from the outset of this crisis this verse from the book of Esther has been slooshing around my head:

“Who knows if perhaps you have come to your royal position for just such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14

Just like Esther, who became queen at the time her Jewish people faced great danger, maybe God has positioned our little organisation (and countless other churches and organisations like us) at the heart of our communities, so that we can be His hands and feet to His precious children when they need us most. I know that in our strength, responding to this huge need is too much, overwhelming, impossible.

But God.

Suddenly being a small, independent charity has given us a massive advantage. We have been free to listen to God’s prompting and adjust the way we work- just like that. Our overheads are small, and we have always been used to a hand-to-mouth, having to trust-God-for-everything existence, and at making limited resources go a long way. So the current financial uncertainties are familiar territory for us.

We are privileged to already be in relationships of trust with many of the vulnerable, isolated families who are being hardest hit in the current climate- mums on a low income, often parenting alone, many in small flats with no outside space, many with children with additional needs. Their lives were hard before- and even harder now.

God had already showed us a way forwards and so when the lockdown hit we already had new plans and processes in place for how to continue to provide support and build relationships and community when meeting together physically became impossible. Our team are in frequent personal contact with at least 100 of our ‘regular’ mums, messaging or phoning at least weekly, providing a reassuring, encouraging voice to counter the understandable panic and anxiety and fear; to remind our mums that although they may be physically alone, we are still all family together.

We have started Facebook Live sessions three times a week when our Hubs would have been meeting, which hopefully provide a friendly, familiar face for our mums and their children, as well as providing links to free activities to do together at home and family challenges to complete together. Despite this being massively out of our comfort zone (some of us more than others!), and being let down by technology on more than one occasion, they have been viewed nearly 4,000 times so far, and, more importantly, mums are engaging with them and telling us that their kids are enjoying watching them, and sharing lovely photos with us of them trying out some of the activities at home. Definitely worth the moments of awkwardness, blind panic, and Facebook making every effort to choose the most unflattering pictures possible as the video thumbnail images!

We have also been delivering formula, nappies, food parcels and other baby and toddler items from Totcycle (our baby/toddler bank) to both mums known to us already, and to sick or self-isolating mums who have been referred to us by other agencies, including the council-led community hubs in both Medway and Maidstone. We have made 32 such deliveries over the last 2 weeks. At the outset, we had estimated that we would need £2,500 to be able to provide this service free of charge for 6 months- and, as usual, God has provided exactly what we need! This has come in the form of a generous grant from our local Park Wood County Councillor Gary Cooke (always so supportive of community initiatives such as this), an equally generous anonymous donation, and numerous smaller donations to our emergency response fund. Amazing!

As well as providing practical and emotional support to our mums and their families, it is our greatest privilege to be able to pray for them. We believe that God didn’t cause this situation, but that He is in it with us, and that Jesus can bring hope, peace and healing into every circumstance. We have been praying for scan appointments, for safety, for housing situations, for healing…. we know that no worry or request is too big, or small, for our God to be concerned about.

Even as the ground seems to shift beneath our feet, I am reminded that it is not sand we are standing on, but rock. The solid, Jesus-shaped rock that doesn’t change, doesn’t falter, is the same yesterday, today and forever. That is absolutely trustworthy. So I will choose not to let my heart be troubled; as our foundations are shaken, to look up and not down; to trust in the God who has, time and time again, proved Himself to be infinitely trustworthy.

Good Grace by Hillsong United

 

 

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