Creating Space…

Two weeks ago on the blog we looked at meeting with God in the midst of disruptions and distractions, when we don’t have the “space” we are used to having to connect with Him.

Something I have been challenged around recently is how at times I feel lacking in that “space” I crave yet there are some things I can do to create space by re-examining the little daily habits that have become subversively entrenched in the way I live my life.

In 24-7 Prayer, we talk about “rhythms” and “spiritual practices” that aid us in our connection with God. These practices are, in a way, healthy habits that can displace the unhealthy habits.

Recently my friend Jill Weber shared a paper she wrote around the “Practice of Unplugging” in relation to the technological world, specifically social media. And I was reminded once again the time and “space” that technology tends to take up in my life, that very same space that I crave to have with God but think I don’t have.
Jill’s article was the first time I had heard of Unplugging in the context of a spiritual practice and I appreciated her insight that has come out of her own personal journey, so I thought I would share a bit of it here with all of you.
May you be inspired and challenged like I was!

‘The first thing I noticed when I abstained from online interactions at the beginning of my day was that I felt fundamentally disoriented.
I wanted to check my schedule for the day.
I wanted to check the weather.
I wanted to check the news.
I wanted to check my bank accounts (I was waiting for a money transfer).
And of course, my email and social media feeds. Not to respond to them, of course – but to just see what was there….
Without those things I felt adrift and out of joint.
I was reminded of a class in Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Community, where Ruth talked about God as our Primary Orienting Reality. “My Kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says in John 18:36. This led me to ask myself the question – why am I turning to my technology to orient me to reality? What is the reality that shapes my life anyways? Weather? Money? Emails? Facebook likes?
What does it look like for me to acknowledge God to be my Chief Orienting Reality and to choose at the beginning of my day to orient myself to His Presence and His purpose in the world? What happens when I start my day with Him in gratitude and worship, when my reality is defined by the manifestation of His goodness and His generosity towards me, by His very presence and nature? Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus’ own practice of retiring to lonely places to pray and align Himself to the Father as His Chief Orienting Reality…

Several years ago I was part of a North American consultation on New Monasticism. Practitioners, educators and writers from across the continent gathered to prayer about discuss how to resource, enrich and connect the movement. Their solution? Not books, email newsletters, facebook groups, but pilgrimage. Actually travelling to visit one another, and immersing into each other’s contexts and practices. Face to face, without the use of any technology. I have found this to be true myself. Just recently I went to Gothenburg, Sweden to visit a cluster of members of our Order. That visit has created a sense of kinship and relational cohesiveness that emails and FaceTimes could never replicate.
The Apostle’s Paul and John used writing, the technology of the day, for the advancement of the Gospel. Interestingly enough, Socrates was highly suspicious of writing as a medium of formation:
Socrates expressed concern about the technology of writing. He believed that learning in dialogue was the key to helping people grow in wisdom, and he worried that writing would make people knowledgeable, but it would fail to make them wise. Socrates was so worried about the damage that writing could cause that he never wrote any of his own ideas down.

Although John was willing to write, he asserts that writing (dissemination of information through technology) was no substitute for embodied presence.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” 2 John 12.
In 3 John 12–13, he repeats the same idea:
I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”

Of course we see this demonstrated in life of Jesus. The Word who became flesh – embodied and moved into our neighborhood.
So is practicing embodied presence an effective antidote to disembodied virtual reality and it’s inherit heart hungers and disordered desires? I believe so, and am committed to expanding my practice of embodied presence to those in my “networks.”

…I would love to report that I have thrust my unhealthy attachment to virtual connection from my life, but sadly I cannot. Some days I’m able to keep my devices offline until I’m done praying. Other times I’m twitchy and itchy and find myself running out of willingness…

I’m still in the de-habituation and disorientation stage, but committed to continue to grow in my practice. I expect that the way forward into a more consistent practice of unplugging is to bolster my discipline of abstinence with a more hearty commitment to the practices of orientation, discernment, and embodied presence.’

Rhythms Disrupted

We are trying something new and once or twice a month bringing some teachings/thoughts/experiences and even discussion around prayer as well as the usual stories.
We hope you enjoy and are encouraged, inspired and challenged. Let us know what you think and we would love to hear what aspects of prayer you have questions about, struggle with or want inspiration in.

Prayer has never come easy to me. Speaking to God, discussing with Him whatever is on my mind in the moment all throughout the day – that has been part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember. But prayer in the sense of that quiet place, that place of intentionally opening my heart to listen, giving Him the time and focus He is so worthy of – that has always been a struggle.
Like many of you I’m sure, I have discovered rhythms to be the most helpful in developing that deep well within me where my soul quiets and my hearing sharpens and I am more ready to receive His words. Rhythms are similar to a habit but what I love about rhythm is that it is fluid, it can change when the seasons of life change. Or can it?
What happens when our lives are disrupted, especially unexpectedly disrupted and that faithful rhythm no longer fits?
If you have ever seen the animated film ‘The Emperor’s New Groove’ then you will understand what I mean when I say that recently, when my rhythms were disrupted, my initial response was similar to Emperor Kuzco’s before he found his “new groove” – a bit grumpy and narrow-focused.
Fortunately God is a good, kind, wise and patient Father and Teacher and He has been helping me discover some fresh things about Him in the midst of all the disruption, reminding me that He simply delights in being with me and is not as concerned as to what that looks like as I tend to be. I feel like there have been a couple of moments recently in my failed attempts to be “disciplined” in prayer, that I have sensed His amused smile of affection over me as He whispers, “Crystal, would you lighten up? Stop being so intense. I just want to be with you, no matter what that looks like right now.”

One of my main frustrations in this particular season of disruption has been the struggle to find the space to really enter into that quiet place of listening and when I have had some time, my mind resembles my current chaotic life circumstances and just won’t stay focused.
Then someone reminded me of this beautiful encouragement from a man I have always had the utmost respect and admiration for – St Frances de Sales. He said:
“If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”

Something I am learning in this season is that sometimes life is what it is and is different from we have known or would prefer, but the Father’s grace meets us in that place of disorientation and speaks gentle words like,“Stop being so intense. I just want to be with you, no matter what that looks like right now in this season.”

So whatever season, rhythm, lack of rhythm you find yourself in right now, may you also hear the Father’s affectionate whisper of “I just want to be with you.”

Clare Goes to the Gathering

“As with many others, it started by reading a book, by hearing someone else’s story.

I’m new to 24-7 (but not to prayer!) and came to the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering on the 24th February not knowing anyone……but I did!
The day was one of reconnecting. I met two people who had past links with me and each shared their story and what was on their heart. It was a privilege to hear what God had done and was doing in their lives.

This theme of stories and connections ran through the whole day. Prayer has united churches. People hungry for God to move among our communities have gathered together to pray and to serve those around them whether it be coastal towns, rural towns, in cities or in other countries!

The picture that had the biggest impact on me was of a young lad in Spain who attends a school for troubled teenage boys. He was kneeling in front of a picture of a cross in a Prayer Space. It resonated with me because I struggled as a teenager and was very aware of my guilt and shame. The opportunity that this teenager had to encounter the forgiveness and acceptance of Jesus is such a wonderful thing. I hadn’t come to the Gathering to learn about Prayer Spaces in Schools but that burden to pray for these places, where young people can encounter the presence of God and the truth of how valued they are and have hope restored to them has stayed with me.

I loved hearing that God’s presence is reaching those who need Him through prayer spaces/rooms in various communities.

The encouragement to pray and keep praying was helpful; I keep returning to Carla’s Trumpet and Torch analogy from Gideon. To be aware, keep praying and be bold in sharing the hope which we have in Christ Jesus.

The hospitality was wonderful, the presence of the Spirit was a joy (thank you worship team for leading us into that place) and it was a blessing to be with welcoming people who are expectant and hungry for our generous, loving Heavenly Father to reveal Himself more in Scotland.

Thank you for organising it 24-7 Scotland team!
Clare”

Yet another Ulster export to Scotland, Clare has ministered to children in various guises, within and outwith church, all her Christian life. She currently finds herself as part of a family who fosters and resides in a friendly coastal town in Fife. Loves ANYTHING that involves being outside!

Finding Beauty On the Streets of Ibiza

Ibiza is a place where God is moving powerfully.
There is never a doubt that God will show up in a situation. We have seen His miracles time and time again in our work – whether that be miraculously finding someone’s hotel, watching a person instantly sober up, or getting the chance to pray for someone in the middle of chaos.

The main aspect of our summer work in 24-7 Ibiza is night-time street assistance for clubbers in the West End of San Antonio. Every night and every hour is different. When you start, there is always an anticipation, an excitement for what God has in store for each of our teams that night, the people that we’ll meet and the situations we’ll help with.

We hit the streets in pairs from midnight to 5am, alternating every hour between the prayer room and the streets. This rhythm of an hour in the prayer room and an hour out is our way of breathing God in, allowing Him to refill and refresh us before breathing Him back out again on the streets.

Our objective is two-fold:

1. To simply pray and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit 

2. Showing kindness in whatever way that is needed by those we meet on the street.


Showing kindness in Ibiza can look like sitting on a cold pavement for an hour at 5am trying to sober someone up to find out their hotel name. Kindness can look like calling an ambulance to get them the medical attention that they need. Kindness can look like holding the head of a person who is having a bad reaction to drugs they have taken, to help prevent further injury before the ambulance arrives. Kindness takes many forms. But it is kindness we are there to freely give. It is in such a place, where drugs are normal and it’s ‘all you can drink for an hour for $10 a head’ that kindness is necessary. We show kindness and love to everyone we meet – because He loved us first.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

One night last summer my partner and I saw a guy sat outside a chippy, so we headed over to chat with him. As soon as we sat down and said we were Christians, “James” asked if we could pray for him about University. Immediately after we’d prayed he exclaimed that he was an atheist. I love that his first response to us was to ask for prayer and then to remind himself that he didn’t believe any of it! After chatting for a long time, it turned out James wasn’t really an atheist, he just was a bit lost and confused about God.

It is moments like these, shining a bit of Jesus’ light into people’s hearts, that make losing sleep, cleaning a person up after they’ve been sick or desperately trying to get someone who’s had too much into one of our wheelchairs all worth it.

The 24-7 Ibiza Team always remind us in every orientation that our time in Ibiza will test our patience, our ability to keep on loving, our levels of grace and some weeks more than others, our energy – mentally and physically. And that’s so true! But no week is the same, and neither is any day! Which is why I love the work out there. You can have a rubbish hour on the streets and then suddenly have an incredible conversation about who Jesus really is and be able to bring truth into someone’s life. Or you get the opportunity to stand and pray with someone in the middle of the West End, and in that you get to teach that person how to pray, to be a part of their secret history and journey with God, and it’s beautiful..

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love… For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103: 8-12

Kathryn Ritchie is a final year student in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived in Edinburgh for three and a half years and is part of Central Church. An interesting part of her degree is that her final year dissertation is on the Harry Potter series and its relationship to Christianity. Kathryn has been out to Ibiza over the past 3 summers which has included 2 short-term mission teams and 2 long-term mission teams.

If you would like to join Kathryn this summer in “shining a bit of Jesus’ light into people’s hearts” then Tamsyn Radmall, student leader at Central Church, would love to hear from you as she is putting together a “Scottish” Summer Mission Team for Ibiza. You can contact her at tamsyn@centralchurch.co.uk.
And to learn more about what 24-7 Ibiza do check out www.24-7prayer.com/247ibiza