Today has been a retreat day. The Youth Advisers Team have booked St Marks' College for 4 days between now and May and just made the space available for anyone who wants to come, no charge. The day is punctuated with prayer 3 times - beginning, lunchtime, end. Fantastic.
I've come on retreat today with an honest hope that I might be able to disentangle a few things in my mind and soul. Some of those things are practical but still in processing stage, almost need to find space for new information, new reality at the moment. Other things going in are of more depth and kingdom significance. At this point in the day (14.32), I don't feel like I've got very far!! So beginning to write down these thoughts is my conclusion to the day.
I have been doing some reading as well as thinking, praying, dozing (!), writing and unravelling before God! My main book today has been Mentoring Leaders by Carson Pue - a book I have read before and I've returned to.
In our morning prayers, we were reading from Galatians 4 about being children of the free, not of the slave. A whole lot more to delve into in that passage, particularly as it links to Isaiah 54 and the covenant with Abraham and the new covenant in Jesus. Knowing who we are and in whose family we are - co-heirs with Christ.
But something Carson Pue talks about in one of the early chapters has struck me today around knowing the focus of our ministry. Without focus, we can get entangled in lots of other opportunities, ideas, whims, suggestions. A leader who is clear on what their primary focus is, will be able to sift and discern. There are loads of things vying to get our attention and as leaders, we are inclined, I think, towards achievement, success, getting it right, being certain, being capable. I know I am anyway! So we take on too much, try and do it all well, and in the course of that lose discipline.
Mick Woodhead at St Thomas' Church Crookes in Sheffield taught on Focus, Discipline, Momentum at last years Pilgrimage conference. These things for me have been highlighted today as I have taken time out. I'm seeking The Lord on His focus for my ministry and I need to be prepared to be pruned I think. And in that I pray he will help me be more disciplined and see momentum in my ministry. And not momentum that makes me feel good but for Christ and his glory ultimately. It may sound twee, or too simple but there are a few things at the minute which are making me realise that if we don't focus in that nothing will be right.
When I had been a Christian about a year, I remember very clearly a sermon that was preached in my home church which became the basis for my call and move into youth ministry. The sermon was from 1John 4:7-12 and was titled 'Being in the business of loving people'. I don't know whether it was the title itself or the phrase 'taking a bath in Gods love' which resonated the most but I came away from that preaching having encountered God and knowing he had spoken to me about the focus for my life. I've never had such a strong call again and so I have stuck with this journey where I have met people, lived amongst them, worked alongside them and, particularly with young people and youth leaders, invested into them and encouraged them to grow in their character and competency in God.
So I'm going to spend some time getting back to the heart of my calling - with all the changes afoot in the next few months it's a good opportunity and I hear God saying 'trust me' - so I will.
Charles Swindoll, quoted in Carson Pue says this: "Do you find yourself always evaluating where you have been? Always reacting, searching for ways to settle and find comfort on our sofa like surroundings? Yawning. Slumbering in the sleepy, warm twilight of sundown. Finding a great deal of security in the mediocrity and predictability of sameness. We are like chatty, laughing tourists taking snapshots of the lowlands through rose coloured filters, enjoying today's lull. We are yesterday dwellers, avoiding the reality of today."