Cooried In

I am so grateful for the diverse streams of the Church of Jesus, and the the richness to be experienced in that diversity.

Over recent years I have begun to learn more about contemplative prayer, as well as the beauty and value of simply being in the presence of God with no need for words.

Coming from a very evangelical background, being introduced to contemplative prayer has brought me a new freedom, rest and delight in prayer. And it has also had a profound impact on those times that invariably come where my head, and even my heart and soul, are such a swirling mess that I find it difficult to formulate words. I have now learned/am learning to bring all of that into God’s presence, and when I can’t find the words to not even try. I simply sit with it all in His presence, giving it over to Him, maybe with palms open (unless I happen to be walking out in nature) and breathe Him in. Then slowly everything within me begins to settle.

I recently went on retreat at the beautiful Sannox Centre on the Isle of Arran. I arrived on the island only a little before ‘Storm Ciara’ so my plans were slightly delayed and my retreat extended by a few days but it turned out to be the best thing for me.

I arrived at Sannox in a similar state to what I describe above – my head and heart and soul swirling with tired thoughts, questions, concerns, tentative hopes and, if I’m honest, some underlying anxiety.
I had been counting down the days until the retreat and when I was finally there, I went into prayer as quickly as possible, desperate to talk with God about it all, desperate for Him to speak.
That first evening was difficult. My internal world would not settle and I kept pushing for words – words from me and words from Him.

But only silence.

And then I let go, stopped pushing. I remembered what I am learning about simply being in His presence. In my heart I heard, “It will come. I will speak. But for now, draw breath, relax, let go… and linger.

Linger.

How often do we linger in God’s presence when we aren’t hearing anything, simply content to sit in companionable silence? Yeh, me neither.

So I lingered.

The next morning I wrote this:

Last night
the storm was in my heart and mind,
swirling in my soul.
This morning
the storm rages outside.
Wind and rain beat at the windows.
But I am cooried in.
Cooried in next to the fire of Your love.
Cooried in under the blanket of Your peace.
Candle flames flicker and dance,
like the gentle presence of Your Spirit.
The wind howls,
the trees swish and creak,
yet inside,
deep quiet.
A heart content,
content to rest at the hearthside of You love.
“Not in the fire, the tremor or the wind”
But in the deep quiet I listen,
content to wait
for the gentle whisper  
that brings forth life.

If you can relate to that sense of your internal world resembling the storm in the external world and would like to learn some helpful prayer practices, such as contemplative prayer, we would really recommend How to Pray by Pete Greig, the 24-7 Prayer Prayer Course and Prayer:Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard J. Foster.

Room for Me Here

Vicky Allen from Dunbar shares with us her personal reflections on the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering back in February.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when we signed up for the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering in February. I didn’t know how many people would be along, or who else we might know, beyond the few of us coming from our wee town. I didn’t know if everyone would be a seasoned 24-7 Prayer “pro” apart from me. But what I did know was it felt important to come, to learn, to listen, and to pay closer attention to what God seems to be drawing our little community further into. And as far as I’m concerned, any chance to visit Dundee is a good thing, so what did I have to lose?

So we arrived, blown into the city on a strong tailwind and snow flurries swirling around us. Familiar faces found us before we even entered the building. Is there any better way to feel welcomed and wanted than to be asked to give a hand? We helped friends carry some boxes in, instantly and inadvertently changing our arrival status from “almost late” to “helping to set up”. My vague anxieties dissolved as we met people, chatted and sipped coffee. It became clear that this was a gathering where I wouldn’t be seen as an outsider. There was room for me here too.

The day flew by, and now I’m left with memories of stories that were told, which felt like signposts for ideas that our little community have been mulling over. I’m left with a deep sense of the sacred, of how good it is when God’s people are in harmony amidst diverse expressions of the Kingdom. I’m left with a treasure trove of possibilities and potential to explore.

You ask me what it was like, really? It was like…like gathering at a well, drinking life-giving water, hands on shoulders as we draw the water together. Like cupping hands to scoop the water over our heads, a fresh baptism of sorts, and then holding up the hands of others, wearied after working so hard for so long. It was like eavesdropping on beautiful stories as we move through the crowd, hearing punchlines, twists and turns in tales which are still being told. It was like a big messy family get-together, smiles and laughter and tears amongst all ages, everyone watching out for the little ones, no matter who they belong to, and reminding them they are part of this too. It was gathering at the well and remembering the well has enough for us all, there’s no hurry, no need to press forward or to leave. There is a wide open invitation to this well.

And so, in the end I have this. For a little while now I’ve been reflecting on the word “poiēma” which is translated into “workmanship” or “craftsmanship” as used in Romans 1:20 and Ephesians 2:10, and is apparently also a root of the word poem. This sparks my imagination. Us – you and I – a uniquely crafted God-poem. I left the Gathering with such a sense of the poetry of God, manifest in our scattered and gathered lives. I imagine our poem-lives flying into the world like small birds on the wing. I imagine each of us, singing our poem-songs so sweetly individual, with the urgency and delight of the coming spring.

Vicky Allen is a communications consultant for a small Scottish children’s charity, with a parallel passion for creativity in general and writing poetry in particular. She’s part of Discovery Church Dunbar, a young church plant which loves to meet in the wide open spaces of East Lothian’s coast and countryside as much as possible.

Oor Scootlund’s Identity

Our 24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering was this past Saturday. It was an incredibly special and significant day and we will be sharing more about the day in weeks to come.

But one of the best parts of the day was the time of worship and prayer, standing all together as one on the enormous map of Scotland as we declared God’s hope and purpose over our nation.

A highlight of that time for many there was the poem below written by our team member Rachel Dhillon and there have been many requests for it since.

The poem is something that flowed out of Rachel’s heart recently as she sat praying and processing with God on a Scotland-bound train following our annual 24-7 Prayer EuroLeaders training weekend.

She had been pondering how when different nationalities are invited to pray in their native language, that we as Scots somehow feel we are not included in this. And a fire began to burn in her heart to see Scots stand unapologetically in their identity as Scots, to remember and cherish the rich Christian heritage in this land and to believe in and fight for the soul and purpose of this nation in prayer and in unity.

These words are the result of that fire lit within her, words in the heart language of Scotland.

A’m wantin’ tae see revival o’er oor land.
Fur oor folk tae staun oan the shudders o’giants.
Fur bairns tae na langer sit under th’ breid line.
Fur ilka body tae hae a hame.
Fur Scootlund tae wance again be a steid o’ beauty ‘n’ justice.
A’m wantin’ tae see Scootlund reclaim oor identity.

Ye huvtae understaun that ath’gither we huv a braw wee story.

We staun an we fought th’gither, we gret th’gither, we laughed th’gither, we aw sung th’gither, we raaged th’gither, but aboon a’ else, we loved th’gither.

We ur a faimily.

We ur a nicht warrior nation. Fae the Hielands tae th’ Borders, tae Glescae tae Auld Reekie. We ken oor faithers ‘n’ oor mithers ‘n’ th’ faith.

Thay said let Glescae flourish thro’ th’ preaching o’ thy word ‘n’ th’ praise if o’ thy name. An guid auld Scootlund wid be a land o’ th’ book. We mind th’ revival in the Isle o’ Lewis ‘n’ th’ battle fur oor nation.

‘N’ no it’s about time again; tae mind oor Scootlund’s identity.

As a nation that shouts withoot fear I’ a’ brass neck, that stauns in unity w’ yin another, whaur poetry ‘n’ songs ur written ‘n’ where justice flows lik’ water. Sae th’ day, we staun’ere ‘n’ say, that in this land, Oor God Reigns.

When Life is Blowing a Hooley

Kathryn shares some encouragement with us around what to do when life is feeling too big for us.

How do you feel when you come back from a weekend of training and equipping? Do you return exhilarated by the plans you’ve made and all the things you’re now going to do?

I recently returned from such an event and I did not come back filled with hope, passion and ambition for the next year here in Dundee.

Now, let’s be clear – the weekend I was at was incredible. Filled with amazing people and times of connecting with like-minded leaders in 24-7 Prayer from all across Europe, which was poignant on such a significant day as this past Friday was. We had teaching from wise leaders who have gone before us. We ate great food and spent time sharing our stories around the table. We sat with our teams, both reflecting on the past and dreaming for the future.

But when I got home it wasn’t the usual exhaustion I have when I go to such events. Spending a night curled in bed watching Taylor Swift’s new documentary on Netflix wasn’t going to fix the kind of weary I recognised in myself.

If I’m being honest, it wasn’t physical exhaustion at all – but rather a hopelessness. Hopelessness at the scale of what God has placed on my heart. Hopelessness that everything is too big, too far gone, too dark for light to break into. Asking God questions of “what difference can I make?

By chance I was working from home the day after I returned from this training weekend and so I went for a walk up Dundee Law on my lunch break to clear my head, take in the panoramic view of the city and talk to God.
I stood at the top and, though it was bright and dry for once, it was blowing a gale. So much so that I was forced to stop, plant my feet and lean against the wall of the viewpoint.

So how do we stand when we feel like we are being knocked down?

As I leaned on the wall, gazing out over the city and the Firth of Tay, between gusts of the piercing cold wind, I realised that I have to lean on God. When I’m not leaning into him, remembering that he’s bigger than me, my worries, and my doubts, it’s no wonder I’m left feeling depleted and hopeless.
Leaning against the wall meant I had a support. I was better equipped to withstand the wind. Yes some gusts hit me harder than others, as too shall the challenges of life, but I swayed and was resilient to the punches. I wasn’t knocked down.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

As I stood, I noticed where the sun hit the city, lingering on the hills of Fife, and the way the river glistened as it crossed under the Tay Bridge. Choosing to see the beauty.
We need to share our stories, the stories of what God is doing. We need to share the beautiful – and we equally need to share the difficult times. It helps to build our faith, it helps when life gets tough.

So what are you going to do the next time life blows a hooley?
Lean in to God, rest on him.
Share your story and seek the stories of others.
Then we may all stand a little taller and be a little stronger for whatever comes our way next.

Kathryn Ritchie is part of the 24-7 Prayer Scotland Team where she helps to bring clarity and definition. She is also part of the Dundee Prayer Space community where she lives – and where we will be holding our annual 24-7 Prayer Scotland Gathering on the 22 February! Kathryn is passionate about Scotland and a good cup of tea!