Adventure ahoy (pt. 1)

It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but in 3 days time I’ll be on a plane to California to visit my friend Mr. Beatton, and my other friend Ms Vogt. A few days at the end of my fortnight away will be spent mooching around in San Francisco, but the main point of my visit is to fulfil a long-term dream of mine to go visit Bethel church in Redding. I’m expecting great things, lots of God and some perspective on my life – I think in general different cities carry different vibes, and in order to get a bit of headspace you need to get out of your regular environment, but there’s something extra special about going to an environment that is so infamously glory-ridden as Bethel. I will surely be bringing loads of stories back with me. Bill Johnson has been quite possibly THE most influential teacher in my spiritual journey thus far, and here’s why:

 

Advertisements

The pitfalls of Kingdom potential

Okay, so I’m getting really excited by this season of MORE. God seems to be galvanising and bringing into reality things which had been bandied about by our community in theory-land for quite some time (I’ll perhaps share some stories with you next blog post or so). I can see the hand of God cranking up not only our worship life as a family, but also his influence in our daily lives. I’m having more God-conversations with friends and colleagues (don’t you just love those?), enjoying greater intimacy with God, hearing cool God stories from others and seeing a whole slew of answered prayers. The dam is bursting!

With this in mind, I want to discuss two potential pitfalls that go hand-in-hand with this sort of Kingdom amplification; pride and despair.
PRIDE
To paraphrase Bill Johnson, your weakest point is not at the moment of your greatest failure, but of your greatest victory. At times when things are clicking into place and we begin to live more and more radically for God, we are especially prone to the sin of pride – arguably the greatest sin in the Kingdom of God (it is, technically, what got Satan kicked out of heaven, as it were). Pride blinds us to our need for God and especially to our need for his grace.
One particular manifestation of pride that I have observed in myself and among followers of Jesus is the sort that creeps in when you are ‘getting it right’. We are called to live lives that are radically sold out for God, wherein we tap into all of heavens resources and pick up our cross daily. At Canterbury Vineyard, we believe unashamedly in not settling for anything less than the fullness and abundance of life promised to us by the scriptures – this means love, miracles, salvation, gifts of the spirit, fruit of the spirit, healing, deliverance, holiness, intimacy, passion and more. As we press into this lifestyle, frustration with the mediocrity of much of what passes for the Christian life today will arise; this is natural. However, we must never allow this to turn into pride or self-satisfaction. Don’t be deceived about your immunity from this; pride is like sand – it gets into every nook and cranny (even nooks and crannies you didn’t know you had). Have you ever looked at other Christians who are less on fire than you and gotten frustrated with them? Have you met Christians who don’t believe in miracles, who are hypocritical, who are too middle class, who aren’t as free as you think they should be, who don’t pray enough, who are not seeking God in every area of their life – and thought, “thank God I’m not like that”? Because I have.
Don’t ever forget that it is only by God’s grace that we get anything right. It is only by God’s grace that we found Jesus in the first place, and it is only by his grace that we find ourselves in a community that is going hard after God, and it is only by his grace that we actually take any of it on board ourselves.
DESPAIR
Another risk of not settling for mediocrity in Christian life is despair, or despondency. I see it rear its ugly head time and time again in my own life and in that of others. You pray for something and it doesn’t happen. You hear about the MORE that is promised to us by Jesus and wonder why you aren’t experiencing it. You see other people get set ablaze or experience victory and wonder what is wrong with you. You desire more of God, you desire miracles, you desire mountaintop experiences or a more tangible sense of his presence, you desire the salvation of your friends and enemies, you desire the influence of God over situations in your life, you desire spiritual gifts, you desire the Kingdom; these things don’t come as quickly as you’d like them to and you begin to wonder if they ever will.
‘Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”‘ – John 20:27-29
If we aren’t seeing all of the Kingdom that we want to, but keep pressing in anyway, we are blessed. It may be a cliche by now, but it’s vital to be intentional about which well to drink from – what God is doing – and his promises and potential – versus what he isn’t.
A couple of nights ago some friends and I wrote down some insanely outlandish prayers, just to put our money where our mouth is and mark out our territory as people who genuinely are seeking more. Among the stuff we listed came such gems as “I want to have frequent visions of heaven”, “I want to be sick with love for Jesus”, “I want people to be healed by just my walking into the room”, “I want every single one of my friends to know God”, “I want to see Jesus breakdance”, “I want to glow like Moses”, “I want to raise the dead” and so on. We did it because we know it’s possible, we did it because we know there’s more, and we did it because we know it’s ours. Does raising the dead and having frequent visions of heaven seem a long way off? Yes – so all the more reason to go ahead and make those huge requests! It’s all too easy to limit your imagination and faith in order to avoid disappointment, but we must at all costs resist the urge to shrink our vision to match our experience.

I challenge you to give your despondency to God and go ahead and make some ludicrously humongous demands on his generosity. Ask God to make you persistent and able to keep knocking until he opens that door. Do it now!

Hungry for more part 2

Following on from my previous post, please welcome head into the heavens‘ very first guest blogger Andrew!

I really enjoyed the whole of [Sunday]. Pastor Jim [ed: he would kick your ass if he heard you call him “Pastor Jim”!] was speaking about “the More” that we have access to as believers, as sons. He made a really powerful statement in the form of a question. He asked us this: “Have you encountered the love of God, or have you simply become a Christian?” In many ways Christianity has become just another religion, another way of life, a different way of seeing things. But it’s not about that. We are meant to live in a loving relationship with the person of God, to know His heart and love the things that He loves rather than love the theology based around Him.

My mind has been bombarded with a million thoughts this morning, and my emotions are kind of… not negative. I guess contemplative is the word I’m looking for. I just really want my life to be about that, about loving the person of God. I’ve experienced what it feels like to be surrounded by a culture, by amazing people who are passionately living that out. The bar has been raised for me. Now it’s that or it’s nothing. I’ve been through the process of compromising what I truly value for that feeling of acceptance too many times. It’s so hard not to give into it, because it’s easier or at least it feels that way. It feels easier to live in the moment and not consider what happens when that moment ends. But I think.. no I know that I am purposed for so much more than that.

Who I am, who God has created me to be is SO MUCH MORE than just a member of a church or another “good person” in the crowd. I am a son who love people into their destiny. The worth of that and the scope of how much I am going to achieve doing it carries more value than I know. I guess what’s really going on in me is this whole “breaking up the soil of my heart” so that I can grow more. It’s a mixture of that and simply watering those roots that are pushing deeper into God.

Emotions are annoying! haha. Because they are so irregular. That and they are not the end goal; they’re not what life is all about. But regardless, they still play a massive role in showing me what’s going on and where I’m at. And I think right now I’m learning the most important lesson for this season. Choosing to live for and love the God I’m desperate to know. It’s the choices that I make which most affect how that looks.

Connecting with God is a choice. Getting to know Him is a choice. Loving Him is a choice. Loving His children, my family is a choice. None of these things just supernaturally happen. The values you hold will be developed over time. And that’s what makes these choices easier – knowing how much I value them. You fight for what you value. You pursue what you value. You love what you value. And that’s where the switch happens. If you value something long enough you will eventually develop a love for it.
I value being around my God. I value the truth that He will always love me. I value seeing everything and everyone in my life enjoying a shared understanding of His love. I value seeing people encounter Him through my actions. I value family.

So my pursuit right now is knowing how to pursue that which I love an a daily basis. And I’m freaking excited! Joy is an amazing thing. It strengthens you because you know that Joy comes out of a good thing, something that is adding to your life, something you were born to experience.

Hungry for more…

I’m at an interesting place in my relationship with God at the moment. We’re working through a season as a church family at the moment on laying hold of the fullness of the Christian life that is promised in the scriptures, and particularly on encountering more of God. Actually, technically we’re calling it the “More” series, but I’m really not into the whole “sermon series” shizzle. I prefer to use the language of “seasons”. But I digress…

There is so much of God at hand and we’ve settled for so little. Why do you think so many people are walking away from church? Because they’re bored! And the answer isn’t snappier sermons or making church “more entertaining” – the answer is, let them encounter God. Give them the real thing! Once you’ve got the taste for proper coffee you never want to go back to instant.

On Sunday we focussed on Ephesians 3:14-19:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Can I make a confession? I usually read that bit and skip onwards, thinking, “well, it’s a nice idea, but I’m never going to get anywhere near that – that sort of relationship with God is only for the super-spiritual.” Well, why not me? It does say, “together with all the Lord’s holy people”, doesn’t it? As we went through it on Sunday, though, my response shifted and I had a sudden urge to go get that verse tattooed on my body (I didn’t, obviously – no idea where to put it). That’s my muthalickin’ inheritance!

On Monday night my new and very interesting acquaintance Nigel prayed for me, and got a few downloads from the Lord about my intimacy with him. He had a picture of me as a sunflower (sunflowers turn towards the sun), but there was a cloud blocking the sun. Jesus, with his mighty hand, swept the cloud away. He felt as though the Lord wanted the sort of relationship with me where I just spent hours in his presence and it felt like minutes (my immediate response: where am I going to find time to spend hours with God?), where he spoke to me about anything and everything. That closeness…it’s something I’ve tasted (when you get into the presence of God and can’t move), but not with any sort of regularity. But I’m spurred on to lay hold of everything I can.

 

 

Film & Theology Part 4

Nearly there!


Film as Icon

 

Another approach with great potential as an avenue of exploration is one that has been proposed by writers such as Gerard Loughlin: film as icon[1]:

 

Unlike idolatry, which claims to make manifest the very essence of God, or the humanistic approach, which claims that God, if God exists, is utterly irrelevant, the iconic approach offers a different way of understanding. To treat something as an icon is to view particular words, images or experiences as aids in contemplation of that which cannot be reduced to words, images or experiences.[2]

 

Again, this dovetails with postmodern emphases within theology, where writers and thinkers are searching for ways of approaching theology and spirituality beyond propositional truth-claims. Brian McLaren –one of the figureheads of the movement – explains the emerging church’s return to mysticism.

 

…to so many people, mystical is still a debased word, sub-rational, maybe a little crazed. But mystical really is a wonderful word, suggesting ways we partake of…mystery beyond the grasp of reasonable prose…recognizing the profound importance of mysticism and poetry, and the corresponding limitations of rationality and prose…[3]

 

What is particularly interesting, and one of the reasons why an alliance between the emergent conversation and the film-theology dialogue has the potential to bear much fruit, is that film itself as an art form and cultural apparatus can help us move into a greater appreciation of experiential forms of spirituality, and thus complement the emergent project. Drawing heavily on the theories of Marshall McLuhan regarding media and technology, Shane Hipps traces our devaluation of mysticism back to the advent of the printing press:

 

The values of efficiency and linear sequence, which became more entrenched in the Western world with every passing decade, changed the way the gospel was conceived…Linear reasoning became the primary means of understanding and propagating faith….Printing makes us prefer cognitive modes of processing while at the same time atrophying our appreciation for mysticism, intuition and emotion.

 

Fearing that a resultant devaluation of the heart has led to a deadening of desire, Hipps sees in image culture potential for the reawakening of spirituality:

 

The age of image restores a right-brain preference for parable and story over theology and doctrine…The shift from emphasizing our intellectual beliefs to the ethics of following is a direct consequence of the influence of images.

 

This lends credence to a multitude of voices positing film-viewing as a spiritual discipline[4]. As well as their parable function –playing trickster to our preconceptions, breaking open our worlds and jolting our hearts into new life – films “could also inspire prayer and meditation”[5], as well as perhaps being an avenue for religious experience. The possibility of film to become the occasion of hierophany has been usefully explored by Craig Detweller, who welcomes the advent of a more visual, iconic approach to faith via image culture. Drawing on Leo Braudy’s distinction between “open films” which invite the viewer into a collaborative process of meaning-making within the film, and “closed films” whose direction is more fixed and unyielding, Detweller challenges us:

 

Are you an open filmgoer, embracing a leisurely pace? Or do you prefer a tightly wound film that takes you on a wild ride? Our preferences may reveal more about our theology than we care to admit…I wonder about the relationship between my movies and my faith. Why do I like to be manipulated by autocratic dictators and shudder at the thought of subtitles? Do I go to the movies hoping to be blinded or longing to see?…Do I invite people into an open space full of  possibilities? Or do I lure viewers into my predefined presentation?

 

While Detweller’s remarks betray an underlying risk of bias towards high culture, the approach of looking to more poetic forms of cinema for the provision of liminal or “thin spaces”[6] has a solid theoretical basis, most noticeably in Paul Schrader’s analysis of the “transcendental style”[7] of filmmakers such as Ozu and Bresson. Schrader posits a common film language for filmmakers from divergent cultures and religious traditions, citing Michael Snow’s Wavelength as an extreme example of the vital element of “stasis” that makes a film transcendent; Gerard Loughlin takes Schrader’s theories and applies them to Orthodox theology, suggesting the films of Tarkovsky as icons due to their “meditative camera movements” and “image[s] of utter tranquility”[8].

 

One of the reasons why contemplation and serenity in cinematography is so easily recognized as predisposing a film towards spirituality is the nature of media production and consumption in postmodernity. Several hallmarks of media within postmodernity are visual ‘schizophrenia’ (“the breakdown of the relationship between signifiers”[9]), pastiche or aesthetic bricolage, and an “onslaught”[10] of images. The experience of going to the cinema as an event and remaining for a sustained period of time in a darkened room with our attention focused is almost a ritual in itself; we are placed into an environment wherein we are particularly open to the visceral experience of cinematic apparatus, as opposed to television or radio which are less frequently given such undivided attention. When you introduce into this event an element of serenity or deliberation (whether through camerawork, mise-en-scène, narrative or other component), it creates a unique environment for contemplation that does not necessarily exist outside of the cinema theatre.

 

Case Study: Bill Viola

 

I relate to the role of the mystic in the sense of following a via negativia – of feeling the basics of my work to be in unknowing, in doubt, in being lost, in questions and not answers…[11]

 

If a poetic approach to film language is a reliable signpost for mysticism in a film text, Bill Viola’s work is an obvious candidate for such inquiry. Indeed, one of the chief marks of Viola’s authorship that is remarked upon is the “increasingly spiritual”[12] undercurrent in his films, and the filmmaker’s interest in Zen spirituality, including a period of time spent in Japan, as well as Christian mystics such as the Desert Fathers[13]. This spiritual evocation is primarily a result of the attention he gives to the importance of visceral awareness in his artwork. In The Passing[14], Viola emphasises the experiential aspect of video through the creative use of editing, light and sound.

 

As the title suggests, the entire film is situated in the realm of liminality. It explores the ‘passing’ between life and death, sleep and wakefulness, between generations, between different life stages, between states of consciousness and the passage of time. Moreover, the mise-en-scene lulls us into a similar state of consciousness as that of the film’s content. Viola uses a cocktail of diverse and seemingly unrelated images and scenes – the film’s set-pieces include close-up video recordings of the artist drifting between sleep and consciousness, figures moving underwater (which are often initially obscured), home videos of a toddler, images of dying elderly patients, headlights playing against a desert landscape, footage of burnt-out vehicles and caravans. The miscellany of images resists easy classification – particularly because often we are not sure what exactly it is we are seeing.

We are persuaded, therefore, to avoid trying to analyse the sequence of images in terms of meaning or ideology, and focus instead on what the film does to us. In this way, we are sutured into the otherworldly space between consciousness and subconsciousness that the videotape taps into. The denial of access to an understanding of the film’s subject matter creates a sense of mystery – we are brought into a territory that is beyond ourselves, beyond the scope of our cognitive understanding.

 

As with most of Viola’s work, stillness and tranquility is the starting point out of which the whole film operates. From the opening shot – a very slow zoom out of the sunlight to end on a panorama of the sky – the artist starts as he means to go on. We are then shown footage of Viola himself sleeping, accompanied by the sound of his breathing. At first, this has a jarring effect; however, as the film progresses, it serves to bring us into Viola’s interior world and reinforce the perceptual, non-cognitive focus of the work. The experience of the film is the focus.

 

The aforementioned element of ‘stasis’ is a vital component of The Passing. The majority of the film is edited in slow-motion; moreover, as with the opening shot, often the image is obscured at first, forcing us to respond to the shapes and patterns of light that we actually see rather than attempt to decipher visual signifiers. For instance, there is one shot wherein we see a person plunging into water – at first, however, all we see is patterns of almost phosphorescent bubbles moving about the screen. The motionlessness gives us ample time to immerse ourselves in the image and whatever effect it might be having on us.

 

Halfway through the film, one sequence in particular serves to lure us further into the film’s experiential axis. We see a point-of-view shot of a man climbing up a mountain and looking around at the stunning scenery. The aural motif of Viola’s breathing returns, this time bringing us right into his headspace – the fact that the entire film thus far has been geared towards engaging the viewer in the artist’s consciousness gives the scene extra impact. We may feel as though we are there on the mountaintop with him, encountering its beauty.

 

Later in the film is a particularly interesting sequence for this discussion. We have spent a lot of time watching passing cars cast shadows against trees and cacti in the desert. The cinematography then shifts slightly to a night vision effect, so that the scene appears to be in daylight although we can still see the glare of the headlights. This creates an eerie effect that plays even further with our perception of reality within the film. Finally, we are taken to a scene in which we stand in a sparse, desert terrain with the cars in the distance. The glare of the headlights is blurry, generating a dream-like quality as the camera pans very slowly to the left. The stillness of the immediate environment contrasted with the distance of the moving cars crafts a keen awareness of stasis – a sensation that hustle and bustle are very far away, and that we are alone to experience the scenery. The pan ends on a stunning shot of a mountain, and we are allowed plenty of space for the experience of awe.

 

The film’s visuals are complemented by a “fantastically complex”[15] approach to sound design. As well as the breathing motif, a recurring auditory theme is non-digetic underwater-sounding noise, emphasizing the sensation of immersion in the film’s world. This is particularly effective during the home-video sequences, which are played in extreme slow-motion; the sound design takes the digetic noises from the video – a relative’s voice, the lighting of a match – and amplifies them, creating an echo effect and heightening our awareness of the different elements of the scene. This means we cannot bypass the smaller details of the scene we would otherwise have paid little attention to; we are allowed to experience every ounce of a moment habitually taken for granted.

 

The work’s overall effect is to leave the responsive viewer in a place of openness and receptivity to transcendence, meditation or even the incoming of God. If we read the film according to its dominant codes, we may give up trying to fit the film into our definitions and simply let go, opening ourselves up to its transformative power.

 

The Passing was created as a single-channel videotape. However, another interesting facet of his work is that many of Viola’s films are created to be experienced in installation form, compounding the previously discussed issues raised by the effects of the concentrated experience of viewing a film in a theatre. The gallery experience deepens the sensory, engulfing potential of the work. Viewers are immersed in the world of the film through its formal elements and are invited to explore its nuances and their response to it:

 

The medium of installation becomes an effective tool for heightening interaction and response even more in the current image-saturated information age, where images on their own may be easier to disregard.[16]

 

In a gallery, the interaction with the text is deepened, and the spectator is more fully immersed in the film or video. This intensity of interaction creates a kinetic energy that serves to deepen the viewer-text relationship, and provides an ideal backdrop to spiritual experience.

 

While recognising the value of ‘open’ forms of cinema, however, it is important not to over-emphasize the spirituality of avant-garde film and video while ignoring the possibilities of mainstream narrative cinema. Aesthetics, or more specifically “the study of beauty in relation to God”[17], has been connected almost exclusively with ‘high’ culture and the avant-garde, to the detriment of popular culture. “Closed films”, with their meticulously designed, self-contained universes, can be just as effective as channels of the experience of the sublime. A particular strength of certain genres is their potential for excess through their “constant assault on the spectator’s senses”[18]. Paul Coughlin defines the ‘sublime’ as the moment “when sensation consumes the spectator with an overwhelming and indescribably profound intensity”[19]. This can, in the sensitive viewer, serve to create an awareness of weakness, smallness or insufficiency; a Christian approach to theology would recognise this sense of weakness as a strong point of spirituality – for example, it helps us experience need and interdependence.


[1] Loughlin, Gerard (2007) ‘Within the Image: Film as Icon’, in Johnston, Robert K. (ed.) (2007) Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic: 287-303

[2] Rollins (2006: 38)

[3] McLaren, Brian (2004) A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystican/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-Yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished Christian. Grand Rapids, Zondervan: 165-7. Italics his.

[4] For instance: Marsh, Clive (2004: 137); McLaren (2004: 173)

[5] McNulty, Edward (2001) Praying the Movies: Daily Meditations from Louisville. Louisville, Geneva Press: xi

[6] According to Celtic spirituality, a “thin place” is an environment wherein God’s presence can be felt particularly strongly. See Maddox, Sylvia (2004) ‘Where Can I Touch the Edge of Heaven?’. Explore Faith [online]. Available: http://www.explorefaith.org/mystery/mysteryThinPlaces.html. Last Accessed 28th September 2010.

[7] Schraeder, Paul (1972) Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. New York, Da Capo.

[8] Loughlin (2007: 299)

[9] Jameson, Frederic (1988) ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, in Gray, Ann and McGuigan, Jim (1997) Studies in Culture: An Introductory Reader. London, Arnold: 192-205.

[10] Adbusters (2009) ‘Media Carta’. Available: https://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/mediacarta. Last accessed 15th September 2010.

[11] Viola (1995: 250)

[12] Ross, David A. (2006) ‘Wisdom and Insecurity: A Meditation on the Work of Bill Viola’, in Viola, Bill (2006) Hatsu Yume: First Dream. Kyoto, Nissha Printing Co: 22-32

[13] Elizabeth Ten Grotenhuis, ‘Something Rich and Strange: Bill Viola’s Use of Asian Spirituality’: 160-179

[14] The Passing (1991) [DVD]. Viola, Bill (director). Netherlands: Éditions à voir.

[15] Townsend, Chris (2004b) ‘Call Me Old-Fashioned, But…: Meaning, Spirituality and Transcendence in the Work of Bill Viola’, in Townsend, Chris (ed.) (2004a) The Art of Bill Viola. London, Thames & Hudson: 20

[16] Stanton Guion, David (2008) ‘A Study of Spirituality in Contemporary Visual Art and Foundations Funding’. OhioLINK [online]. Available: http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Guion%20David%20Stanton.pdf?osu1210694707. Last accessed 28th September 2010: 103

[17] Lynch (2005: 185)

[18] Caughlin, Paul (2000) ‘Sublime Moments’. Senses of Cinema [online]. Available: http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/00/11/sublime.html. Last accessed 20th September 2010.

[19] Caughlin (2000)

 

God kicks ass.

I was in the Boiler Room last night with a bunch of others from the community and we had a proper good ole’ fashioned revival meeting.

We’ve been praying daily for his presence to go with us, and he hasn’t failed us. Last night the atmosphere was thick with it. But I’m still hungry for more.

Unlike most of what following Jesus entails, which I find rather challenging to explain to outsiders at times, I find it very easy to describe God’s presence. Usually for me it’s like a very strong tingling feeling in my hands and wrists (I think this has very strong links with why we lay hands on people when we pray for them or raise our hands in the air when we sing to God). Other times it’s like your whole body is buzzing – I’ve only experienced this in small doses, but it’s a little like being stoned I guess, except good for you. I have friends who have experienced what we call being “drunk in the spirit”, where your experience of God’s love pouring down on you is so immediate that it feels like you’re hammered drunk. My friend Lewwy describes it as “like getting a big hug from Jesus, a big alcoholic hug”. Another friend of mine, who used to be something of a junkie before she became a Christian, has at times got a bigger high off God’s love than she did off drugs, but afterwards she felt amazing, renewed and transformed (hardly surprising; God’s presence is transformational).

I’m looking forward to the day that I’m intimate enough with God to walk in this stuff. I was having a debate with a friend the other week where he was basically questioning the efficacy of chasing God’s presence. He brought up a good point – that it might be a cultural thing, as all this culture wants is new and bigger and better experiences (hence why we go off and do drugs or screw loads of people in order to distract ourselves from our inner numbness).

I think there’s no point chasing this stuff for its own sake – if you’re not really after Jesus but just want a big spiritual high, it’s dead in the water. And then what happens when the fun times are over and you experience the dreaded “dark night of the soul”? But, clearly, amazing experiences are part of what God, by his grace, grants to his people. Clearly, then, they glorify God, and are part of what he wants to give to his people. So, why not seek it out?

The cleft in the rock

So you may have noticed by the thin-ness on the ground of my blogposts that I have been internet-less for the past while. My not-so-trusty Acer laptop decided to pack it in, and although I have now acquired a Macbook Pro (!), it’s having a few teething problems connecting to the dodgy internet connection at my house. I’m currently using the WiFi at McDonalds (what a friggin capitalist), and while I may not be able to crank out anything of any particular substance at the moment, I can at least put up a quick photo blog. I paid a visit on Monday morning (with the wonderful Lyndall and Vicki) to the building that Canterbury 24-7 Prayer Community has acquired to use as a boiler room, and it’s lovely. And yes, we are above an estate agents where we have to go through their offices to access it. Those guys are gonna have an interesting year…


We’ve been thinking of the place a little like the cleft in the rock that God hides Moses in in Exodus 33, as we are in a slightly obscure part of the city but God’s glory can pass alongside us and go into the city. Every day at 5.15pm we align ourselves with the evensong at the Cathedral and pray the prayer Moses prays in that chapter (adapted slightly to refer to us), so here it is if you ever feel like joining in:

“Father you have said that you know me by name and that I have found favour with you. if you are pleased with me, teach me your ways, so that I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that we are your people.  If your presence is not with us, then don’t send us from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with us unless you go with us? Lord show us your glory.”

Something’s in the air.

This afternoon me and my small group (who are interested starting a boiler room Canterbury) met the lovely Phil Togwell from 24-7 Prayer, who came down from Romford to discuss what a prayer-based community would look like in our city. We have all been very much energised by his visit and input, and I’m still processing the stuff we talked about.

This weekend we take our first little foray into 24-7 prayer – inspired by Phil’s community’s 24-1 prayer event, and too wimpy and resource-less to pray for a full week or month, we decided to try praying for 24 hours as a community from Saturday morning until Sunday morning. We have gotten our hands on just about the coolest prayer space available – a caravan called ‘Grace’ – courtesy of the mum of one of the newer Vineyarders, Joe. Vicki suggested this afternoon that we rename Grace ‘The Prayeravan’; we looked at her with a mixture of disgust and amusement. Still, maybe it would bode well for the event? I am sure Sunday will bring lots to write about, plus photos and possibly a short film if I can book me a HD camera from uni…

If this weekend goes well we will surely do more of this in the future, especially once Vineyard actually moves into its brand new warehouse. If you are the praying sort, please keep this event in your prayers this weekend.

(Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!)