Friday, 22 November 2013

Prayer Arrow: Walk

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The arrow that points down to your feet. 

Ask Jesus to help you to 'walk with Him' as you live your life. That means asking for the courage and the wisdom to do things His way every day and in every situation.

This arrow is also about needing exercise.
If you could walk, but then chose to sit down all the time and never walk, your legs would eventually become so weak that you wouldn't be able to walk even if you decided to.
We need to 'walk with Jesus' regularly to make our faith 'strong' and help us grow the way Jesus wants us to. 

Psalm 8:2a (TLB)
But grow in spiritual strength and become better acquainted with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

This arrow is about discipleship, growing in faith and living out our faith - it speaks for itself!

For the children's personal prayers this is about asking God to help them get closer to Him and understand more about Him, and to have the courage and wisdom to make right choices.

If you're using this arrow as part of a group activity, try having some footprints on the floor that the children can walk on whilst they pray.

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Use Me

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook

Use Me.

The Arrow that points around and out. 

God can use you, however old you are - whether you are a brand new Christian or an old and whiskery one... He can use you in many different ways at home, at school or at church.
You will need to ask the Holy Spirit to help you see where you can be used.

James 2:17b (TLB)
Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all—it is dead and useless.

When I do this prayer with children I 
talk through the different ways God can use them. Quite often it's just common sense - begin with doing what you should be doing. Tidying your room and doing your chores without complaining for a start!

Being used by God isn't just about being up front, leading hundreds to Jesus, or leading worship etc. It's also being faithful in other things - shopping for someone who can't get out, helping in the garden for some one who can't do it themselves. The list could go on and on.

Micah 6:8 tells us
The Lord has told you, human, what is good; he has told you what he wants from you: to do what is right to other people, love being kind to others, and live humbly, obeying your God.  (NCV)

That says it all really!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Prayer Arrows: Listen

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


Lots of Arrows that point in. 

Prayer isn't just about talking... It's listening too.
We should try to 'hear' what God is saying to us today, and give time for His word (The Bible) to sink in.

1 Samuel 3:8-9 (TLB)
So now the Lord called the third time, and once more Samuel jumped up and ran to Eli.
“Yes?” he asked. “What do you need?”
Then Eli realised it was the Lord who had spoken to the child. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if he calls again, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I’m listening.’”
So Samuel went back to bed.

What we are aiming to do with this arrow is create the habit of being still for a moment, to reflect and give the Holy Spirit a chance to do what He does rather than giving a breathless 'shopping list' and then running away. Stillness is rare in today's world - especially in prayer!

When I do this prayer with children I often joke that this is the bit of prayer that grown ups are not very good at!

It's a scary one to do with children, but you can do it with almost any prayer station, as many of them require the children to think - to meditate.

There is a fashion for emptying the mind and seeing what drops in - personally I think approaching 'listening to God' like this can be dangerous.

I prefer the listening bit of prayer to be in response to something we have learnt, read or heard. Some would say that if we guide we don't give the Holy Spirit room...... Well, I'm please to say that the Holy Spirit is bigger than that and works beyond what is in the human mind. I am convinced it is better and wiser to start with something of God in our minds than with nothing.

Some folk will find this scary - "What if God doesn't speak?"

Well - to start with, we need to be careful in how we explain this. How does God speak? It can be in many ways - it can be in an audible voice, but that is rare. Often it's something that stands out in our minds from what we have heard, and as we meditate on it, we can be comforted or challenged etc

We also need to be careful to teach the children about measuring what we 'hear' alongside the Bible and talking to trusted Christians.

When we do this as a specific activity I make it clear that not everyone will hear something at that moment, but that it's good to take the time to listen. We use music, a phrase from what we have learnt that day, a Bible verse or a specific aspect of God to reflect on. We have been amazed at the response from some of the children - it's worth a go!

How do you do the stillness and listening part of prayer? It's one I'm still trying to master - a fibro brain doesn't lend itself to stillness!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
(More coming over the next few days)

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Sorry

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow that points around and in. 

Being truly sorry means:
I know I have done wrong, I will try not to do it again, I will ask for God's help when I am tempted, and I want to forgive others because God has forgiven me

The fantastic news is that because of Jesus - if we truly say sorry to God and mean it,
He will forgive us!

1 John 1:9 (TLB)
But if we confess our sins to him,[a] he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.

Psalm 103:11-13 (TLB)
11) for his mercy toward those who fear and honour him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12) He has removed our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west. 13) He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who reverence him.

When I do this prayer with children I use different activities - it depends on the age and stage of the children.

Some times I do 'Fizzy Prayers' (Click the link to see what this is)

Sometimes I get the children to write or draw their sorry prayers and we put the prayers through the shredder.

Occasionally we will write them on flash paper, get the children to fold them, and put them in a bowl...... and then I set light to them. (Flash paper does what it says - it disappears in an instant flash when lit). You may need to do a risk assessment on this!

With some children we get them to pin their prayers on a wooden cross - with the promise we won't read them!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
(More coming over the next few days)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Thanks

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow That Points Backwards. 

We are supposed to be thankful for everything. Even the things we may not like!
Remember to be especially thankful for Jesus and what He has done to make it possible for us to know God and have the Holy Spirit living inside us

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (TLB)
No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

When I do this prayer with children, I ask them what they are thankful for. The answers usually range from parents to sweets. Sometimes we get named pets or a favourite sport (Usually football)

I then start saying things that may not be on their list of things to be thankful for:  Brussel sprouts, the dentist, little brothers etc.
We then talk through the fact that these can be good things - we can be thankful that sprouts and the dentist are good for us. Sometimes we even look for the nice things about having a little brother!

Sometimes this will lead to a more in depth discussions about bad things that happen where it doesn't feel right to be thankful. Great sensitivity is needed during these time and I often agree with what they are saying - it would be cruel to tell them that they need to be thankful for awful things that may be happening to them, but encourage them to find something within those circumstances to be thankful for. It may just be "Thankyou that there are people who can help me". It can be a huge help to a child to see that they are not alone in the situations they face. (You may want to read a blog I wrote called "God's Will")

I like to use "Sweet wrapper prayers" to re-enforce this:

  • Have some bright, flexible but strong paper you can use as sweet wrappers, plus some small square bits of paper.
  • Get the child to write/draw what they want to say thankyou for on the square bit of paper
  • Scrunch the “prayer” into a ball and wrap it in the bright paper like a sweet
Drop the sweet into a glass/clear plastic bowl and pray/say amen

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
Use Me
(More coming over the next few days)

Monday, 11 November 2013

Prayer Arrows: Praise

The Arrow Prayers are ©2000 Kay and Steve Morgan-Gurr. 
Art work is by Neil Crook


The Arrow that points up. 

Think about who God is, and what He is like
.......and tell Him.

Psalm 8:2 (TLB)
You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies!

When I do this prayer with children, I do 'Shouting Prayers'.

I ask them to think of a word that describes God and say what it is.

It could be a real word: Big, Awesome, Wonderful, Loving.......

It could be a made up word: Humunginormous, Fandabiedozie, Wonderbig......

We then turn those words into a prayer.

I start with "Dear God, we think you are..." Then all the children shout their word out - lots of different words shouted at the same time. We then close with a "Wind Up" Amen (Something quite difficult to explain here..... but it's fun!)

There's loads of songs out there that can back this up too!

Other Prayer Arrows can be found here:
More to come!

Praying With A Foggy Brain - There's An App For That.

(Check out the preceding posts to this: "What Was I Praying?" and "Is Prayer A Duty Or A Joy?")

I’ve been looking for ages for a journal app I can use for prayer, notes and thoughts. 

I needed one that enables me to use larger fonts on a clear and uncluttered background. 

None of those from Christian app writers cater for people with vision problems, so that shrunk the possibilities a lot!  

I also wanted one I could use across all devices - not easy when your computer/tablet is Apple and your phone is Android! 

But then I found and iPad/iphone app called ‘Awesome Note’ . (Christian app writers could learn a lot from looking at this very accessible app!)

This app is completely customisable - even down to what folders you want, what you want them to look like and how you want to use them. You can arrange the folders in any order and name them too. 
It also syncs with Evernote - my chosen note taking app, so I can look up stuff when I haven’t got my iPad. It's the best £2.99 I’ve ever spent on an app!

So why did I need an App?
It’s because of the tools I have found useful for my prayer life - with this app I can put them all in one place, and make notes as I use them. With a brain like mine I can easily forget.

These things are:
  • A Prayer Book - I love old prayers - they have ancient and beautifully crafted words, and much thought has gone into what is in them. My favourite is the  ‘Prayers of the Reformers’ book. I bought a similar kindle prayer book and often ‘screen shot’ prayers and drop them into Awesome Note to use more frequently - especially if one mirrors how I feel I should be praying for a specific person or circumstance.
  • Written Prayer - I have those moments where I start to pray for someone or something and then think “I don’t know what to pray”. (Yes I know about tongues - but not everyone has that gift….). I think it's helpful to write specific prayers and drop them into this app. I don’t think God minds us doing that. Somedays I'll read it as my prayer, but on other days it may be the catalyst for more. 
  • Bible verses - There’s some great examples of praise in the psalms, there’s also some great examples of pleading with God. The Epistles give us some lovely examples of praying for others. I like to drop these into my journal too so I can pick them out to pray with. 

For example:
Ephesians 1:15-19(MSG)
“That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

  • Music - I sometimes find it a distraction, but sometimes it’s something that draws me to prayer. If I come to prayer agitated I find it often ‘resets my soul’. I can't drop the actual music into the app, but I can write in a part of my journal if a song has helped.
  • Devotions - More often than not, my daily reading will set a conversation going with God - so I have my journal in Awesome Note too. A good place to look back when I need reminding of what God is saying to me

Using all these things is a help, but I am also aware that change is crucial. This app is useful for this too - I can have lots of ways to pray in there. If I'm having a bad day I can use a more guided/prescriptive approach (Written prayers and Bible verses). On my better days I can be freer - rewriting prayers as circumstances change or the Holy Spirit reveals more.

Using something completely different to pray on some days is good - I sometimes use my prayer arrows book to focus on the different aspects of prayer. (That’s another blog!) I've dropped all the pictures from this book into Awesome Note so I can recall them, because on my bad days I won't remember all of them (If any!)

Others use the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, or an acronym such as A.C.T.S (“Adoration, Confession. Thanks and Supplication” Lots of big words there, which is why we wrote the prayer arrows). If you go for this approach to quiet times - you may want to use these and drop them into a journaling app..... or even a hand written journal if you prefer!

I hope this is helpful.

Be blessed in your praying.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Is Prayer A Duty Or A Joy?

As I was growing up, prayer was sold to me as a chore. Something I had to do as a duty. It felt as though having a good prayer life was the thing to be worshiped, rather God. No one told me it could be a joy. No one gave me the tools  to enjoy it or be effective - I was just told to do it, do it for a long time everyday and always do it in the morning. Not helpful!

From the reaction to my last post, it seems I am not alone in this. Many have sent private messages saying that they have the same problems with prayer, and thank you for saying what I said. (Anyone who doesn’t agree hasn’t commented)

It wasn’t until I moved churches when I was 17 that I realised how much more prayer could be. I went to a youth house group meeting and heard someone pray in a normal voice using normal language, as though Jesus was sitting right next to him. It sounded as natural as breathing to him. I’d never heard anything like it and it bowled me over.

That was 30 years ago. For over 20 of those years I’ve been in full time kids work and I’ve been determined to give kids a much better experience of prayer than I got - getting them excited about praying, but also facilitating kids with additional needs who find the whole traditional approach to prayer almost impossible.

If you look back through my posts you will see quite a few of the ‘object prayers’  I love to use with children, to spark an interest and an excitement in prayer

With the onset of disability in my own life, I’ve had to work through a lot when it comes to prayer. It’s given me a whole new perspective when it comes to cognitive ability and the process of prayer.

I’ve learnt that I can shout at God - but still worship.
I’ve learnt that it’s ok to say “it’s not fair” but still trust His wisdom.
I’ve learnt that He understands when I’m bone tired and soul weary and struggle to find the words to speak to Him - and yet on those days find I’ve had the best wordless conversation with Him ever.
I’ve also found out that God doesn’t mind if I sometimes read my prayers rather than relying on memory….. but more of that tomorrow!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some short posts on things I find helpful for personal prayer - a post per suggestion. Later in the month I’ll post some things that may be useful to any age group in encouraging a habit of prayer

Be blessed - in the truest sense of the word!

Monday, 4 November 2013

What was I Praying?

Let’s be honest - we all find prayer difficult at some point in our lives, and for many different reasons.

If you were like me, you were brought up in a church where great value was placed on how long you prayed for in a morning - to rise early and spend at  least 30 minutes with God. (Subtext to that - “but an hour makes you a better Christian”)

Prayer meetings all had a similar flavour, where ancient worthies would pray for over 10 minutes using beautiful language - but some of which I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t listen/concentrate for that long and I couldn’t live up to this expectation.

I did pray out loud once as a teenager: A bunch of us who played badminton on a friday night with our church youth group would take ourselves off for half an hour to pray for our “non Christian friends”. I prayed for a guy I’d met through my Saturday job - apparently my prayer didn’t quite hit the mark. It took a very long time to pluck up the courage to pray out loud again! No one seemed to place any worth on the fact I valued prayer enough to actually be there rather than stay and play an extra game of badminton!

Whilst we’re being honest, we probably need to say that some of us just don’t have the concentration to cope with praying long public prayers or trying to pray for 30 minutes at a time (especially in the morning). And it’s not just those with Attention Deficit Disorder!

There are some who can do all this - but I suspect that this is often more down to personality than it is to being an uber-amazing Christian. It’s at this point I usually get shouts of ‘Heretic - burn her’! (Or the modern-day evangelical equivalent)

I totally agree that without prayer and without time to study God’s word our faith would just sink. It is vital to our survival.
But if you have one of many chronic illnesses, it can be quite hard to do what well meaning Christian teachers tell us we should do.

There are many conditions that make first thing in the morning the worst time to pray and read, there are conditions that make concentration hard  too.

For example, one of the conditions I have has an associated problem that can affect concentration, memory, the ability to put sentences together and being able to remember exactly what you were saying by halfway through that sentence. You can blank out very quickly too!

I’ve chatted to others with similar issues who not only struggle with quiet times/prayer, but also the guilt laid on them because they can’t ‘do prayer like they’re supposed to’. They are adults, teenagers and children. And it is for them I’m putting together a series of blogs on praying when you can’t concentrate for long. I hope that some of the info will also be useful for Children’s leaders who want to do more praying with their groups.

The truth is, over many years the 'church' has added to the rules of praying. We've put these rules on to new Christians for all the best intentions - we want to make sure the habit of prayer is formed early. 

It's a great aspiration!

But we forget the God has made us all with different personalities, and not all of us can follow this prescribed way of praying.

I was really helped by a comment by a friend in my home group. He said "Prayer is about my relationship with God, not what I ask for". If we pray, and our relationship with God grows, does it really matter how we get there?

For me, I am so thankful to now have people around me who just ‘get’ how I have to function. They appreciate my ‘constant conversation’ approach to prayer. Plus I’m grateful for those who work with me and never judge me if I don’t pray during those necessary early morning prayer meetings at camps and conferences - just because my speech jumbles in the early morning. 

I love those early morning prayer meetings…. I’d just rather not try to pray out loud!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Lessons From A Slow Kettle

I haven’t blogged for a while because September is my holiday/go slow month. We didn’t quite manage the whole month in the end with extra meetings and a couple of bookings sneaking their way in

Due to the kindness of someone who believes in the fact we need a holiday, we managed a wonderful 2 weeks abroad. We went to a lovely village in Greece on the Mani peninsular - Stoupa. We’ve been there before. The accommodation is basic Greek, and you have to be willing to slow down - or you won’t survive the holiday(!)

It’s a well known fact that a kettle in a Greek apartment will always take longer to boil due to the low wattage. But the kettle we had was amazing in its slowness - it took over 30 minutes to boil enough water for two drinks. (You should know at this point that we have an instant water boiler at home because I find it difficult to lift a kettle. I’m not used to waiting for hot water!)

This was a huge lesson in patience for an impatient person like me. When I’m on holiday I like to do things a certain way - starting the day with a cup of coffee in bed whilst doing a sudoku puzzle or something similar. Another one with my breakfast whilst doing my daily readings - and so the day goes on.

But when the kettle takes 30 minutes - you have plan your coffee/tea carefully! You can’t have ‘a quick cuppa’. You have to wait for it…… and then savour it. I didn’t get my coffee in bed very often - I gave up and opted to only have it with breakfast most of the time.

Ok, It’s a bit of a first world problem - some people in the world have to walk for a couple of hours to get a jug full of dirty water, so complaining about it just seems wrong. But, I decided I could learn from it.

As a result of this slow electrical equipment, we sat and rested for longer - because we had to. Sometimes we gave up and said “You know what? Let’s go out for a coffee” (And a nice cake/Ice cream - of course!) And as a result of going out we saw more, tried more things (Fig Ice cream for one - wonderful stuff!) and relaxed more than we might have done.

What started as an irritation turned into a bit of a joke that has helped us create precious memories that are so essential, Not just the memory of the kettle, but also of the places we went instead of waiting for it to boil.

This kettle has reminded me that there are times to slow down and savour things, to appreciate relationships, to ponder and think. To just make time….. For people and for ‘stuff’.

It’s amazing what you can learn from a kettle…… 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Update On How Our Prayer Activities Went

We’ve finally come to the end of a busy Summer of camps and conferences, so hopefully I should be writing a few more blogs in the coming months!

As you will know from previous blogs, we did the Beatitudes with two of the groups we worked with - quite an ambitious teaching programme!

I thought I’d let you know how the prayer activities worked.

The two groups were very different, and the selection of children within these groups was quite diverse as well! But all the activities seemed to work well in different ways.

The first group was a camp for 9 - 11 year olds (Our church camp, “Activate” at Hungarton), The children were from different backgrounds, with different abilities and many from totally unchurched backgrounds. We also had a couple of children on the autistic spectrum - so the challenge to explain everything clearly in a way they could connect with needed to be met.

The next was a group of well taught children from families who are involved in full time ministry. They were aged 5 - 13(!) Their ability was wide ranging, from a 5 year old who listened best when ‘sitting’ upside down on a chair with her legs in the air and head hanging, to a 13 year old who spoke English as her third language! Challenging in a lovely way.

Below are the links to each activity, and the update will be at the bottom of each of those pages.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Blessed are the Merciful - Talking Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
(Matthew 5 verse 7)

A popular children's song says: "Mercy is when God does NOT give us what we deserve"

God has shown us mercy. (Not going to explain that in this blog - if you're using this in your own children's work, I'm sure you can do that bit!)

In response to God's mercy, we too show mercy.

This can be forgiving people and not getting our own back. Some people also think this is being 'merciful' in what we do - that is, doing kind things for people who need help (Food banks, Raising money to get clean water into villages in Africa, raising awareness about the slave trade and lots more)

Showing mercy often starts by saying something, so we'll be using post it notes in the shape of speech bubbles to write or draw our prayers on. 

You may want to say thankyou for God's mercy. You may want to say "I forgive the person who upset me" or "help me to forgive".

Do one speech bubble about showing mercy to people in need - it could be anything, may be something you've seen on the news. 

I'll be praying about girls who live in countries where they not allowed to go to school - I want them to be able to learn.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

Again - I wasn’t sure of the impact this would have on the children, but reading all the prayers afterwards - I was amazed at the insight in them. 

At the conference, we encouraged them to ask God if there was someone they should forgive or people they should show more mercy to. We also said not to name people!
One girl didn’t want us to see her prayer and threw it out of the window. We encouraged her to go and get it and put it in her bible, and re-assured her that we didn’t mind if she kept it between her and God.

For another child who was struggling with faith, it was a glimpse of a heart cry to God.

Some of the prayers from camp were far too personal to put here, but here are three of the ones we can show:

Blessed Are the Meek - An Explosive Prayer

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth 
(Matt 5 v 5)

Meek sounds like weak doesn't it?

But it isn't! It's all about having the power and the strength to hurt or destroy, but choosing not to. 

You've seen how some people always get angry or constantly grumbling about things haven't you? Or seen people always trying to 'get even'?  This is the opposite of meek

Part of being meek is being content in what ever situation we find ourselves in - especially when we can't change that situation, but instead relying on God for what we need. 
(There are some situations that we can and should change - especially if we are being hurt by someone. If this is the case, we should ask someone we trust for help. This isn't getting your own back, it's keeping ourselves and others safe.)

This is not about being a 'doormat'. It's about responding to people and situations in a way that makes God happy.

We're using Fun Snaps to pray about meekness!

These are amazing - if only the explosive part of them were in the packaging, it would be really dangerous and could hurt. But those who make them have put other things in them to make them safer - they are still effective (They go bang!) but they don't hurt you.

With God in our lives, we can be really effective - but we can choose not to hurt people. If everybody followed this beatitude - the results would be explosive!

Let pray about that - and then throw your fun snap on the floor.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

The whole teaching for this went really well (What is written above is only a very small snapshot of the teaching) - mainly because the children on the camp had given me so many wonderful examples of the opposite to meek that I could use!!

You would think this prayer activity would cause a riot wouldn’t you?!
It had an enthusiastic response with both groups, and the children got what we were trying to do.

It was a military operation to get the 64 children on camp to throw them at the same time, but the majority did go off at the same time!

The only down side for the children at the conference was the strength needed to throw the snap hard enough - all of our 5 and 6 year olds had to try twice. (Plus one child with the ‘naggers’ who wanted to make a point by throwing it a few seconds after everyone else - but his bid for independence in this was over shadowed by the younger ones doing it twice!)

I gave the chemical compound for fun snaps as part of the teaching, (as given on a website), but having repeated the teaching at church on Sunday - I was corrected by someone who knows about these things. So, if you see a website that says Silver nitrate - it’s wrong, it’s actually silver fulminate (Thanks to Ray Smith for correcting me on this)

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn - Fizzy Prayers

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

(Matthew 5 verse 4)

This Beatitude is talking about being really sad for the wrong things we do. Along side that, it also means being really sad about the bad stuff in the world.

Use the dissolvable vitamin tablets to help you pray about the wrong stuff. 

Use the first tablet to say sorry for the wrong things you have done, watch it dissolve as you pray. The tablet will disappear - this represents the forgiveness God promises when we say sorry and mean it.

Use the other tablet to pray about something that is bad in the world (That might be slavery, hunger, bullying - anything that you are passionate about stopping). As the tablet dissolves, pray that the bad stuff you are talking to God about would end. But remember - you may be part of the answer to that prayer!

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

This worked to a point, but the novelty factor took over a little. On the camp, trying to make it work for 64 kids was a challenge. Using 6 stations helped, and they certainly got what we were doing. One of our boys who had ASD pointed  out the left over scum on the top of the water, saying that although God forgets when He forgives, there is always something left over (The consequences). Quite profound! I think he ‘got it’.

For the other group, I had used a different brand of vitamin tablet that had no scum, but a very strong orange smell. A great sensory experience for most, but a little too much for one child who backed away quite quickly. (In the process of being tested for ASD - so not a surprise)

For those doing this - The Wilkinson’s brand leaves scum, but not such a strong smell. The Superdrug brand is the one with a very strong smell.

NOTE: I came across this idea when working with the amazing Orison and Prayer Spaces In Schools. I just added the "pray for the bad stuff in the world" bit. 
Do check them out!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit - Zip Prayers

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5 v 3

Being poor in spirit is all about knowing you need God - the opposite is being arrogant, ‘full of yourself’, and thinking you can do things on your own and in your own way.

In this prayer activity, the zip represents where we are with God.

Zips pull things close together, so a completely closed zip means we are close to Him and fully reliant on Him. (Remember the ‘Frog’ bracelets!)

If the Zip is completely open - then that means are fully reliant on ourselves and God doesn’t get a look in.

Using the zip, think about how you rely on God.

There are lots of degrees of this - you may believe in God but still live as though you can do life without Him - so your zip could be at any point in between.

POST SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

Because this was a bit of a tenuous link I was doubtful that all would get it, but they seemed to. Whilst I was talking about it on camp and summarising the talk with the zip, something occurred to me. Zips on jeans have a ‘lock’ mechanism - if the tab is pushed all the way down, it locks the zip at the top. So I used this to talk about staying close to God and recognising how much we need to stay close to God. 

How do you lock your “Spiritual” zip? Keep talking to Him and reading the Bible are just two things you can do!

I took great care in explaining this activity - and all, with a couple of exceptions, seemed to get it. 

The couple of exceptions were children who were over tired and grumpy. The first night on camps and conferences are always bad for children! But even they got it by the middle of the week.

On camp, there was an added bonus……

We had a some children who were bordering on ADHD. Having told the campers to keep the zip in their Bibles, I noticed that for the rest of the week they would sit and fiddle with it during the ‘talky’ bits in the meetings thus helping them to listen. I also noticed a few leaders doing the same during the day - it appeared to be a good stress reliever too!

For the conference, I was worried if our 5 and 6 year olds would get it, but on chatting to parents it seems the children managed to explain it to them word for word!

There is always the problem of zips left behind - but I hope that getting dressed in the morning and ready for bed at night will bring this teaching to mind.

This had the unusual novelty factor of using a trouser fly zip to teach about God!

(Do Check out the other prayer activities, and the introductory blog to this series)

Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness - Scrabble prayers

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5 v 6)

In the prayer activity we'll be looking at our response to the righteousness given to us. In in a world where it's not fashionable to have right attitudes - what right attitudes are you most passionate about improving/having?
The campers will be putting the words they choose onto some card - scrabble style.

END OF SUMMER UPDATE: How did it go?

This prayer activity went better than I could have hoped! Even those with poor reading skills could join in by saying words and getting others to spell them with the scrabble blocks. We had great words, and some unique ways of using letters so they could say what they wanted (An upside-down ‘u’ used when the ‘n’ blocks ran out etc)

I actually had to call time on this activity because the children in both groups became so engrossed in what they were doing!

Here’s a couple of examples for you:

(I bought the scrabble sets from ebay - buy 6 sets and get one free. You may want to get some extra ‘n’ squares for each set!)

Beatitude Prayer Activities

Those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will have seen my comments on purchasing strange things for creative prayer activities.

When we teach, we like to do a creative prayer that causes the children to stop and think about what they have heard and pray about how they can apply the teaching in their own lives.
We like these activities to be memorable, either using things the children will come across regularly or are so outrageous - they'll just recall them in those quiet moments when their minds wander.

I'm going to put some of them on here - just to spark a few ideas with folk who are (like me) keen to encourage both prayer and the application of Bible truth.

On camp this year we'll be looking at the Beatitudes. 
It's been tough preparing as I believe we often dumb down what these verses mean - turning them into a very light weight idea with wishy washy terminology. It's been tough because I want the children to have to full picture - not the 'pretty' version I was given as a child.

In our desire to make them understandable to children we have been guilty in watering them down by using words that culturally mean different things today - we've made them 'nice' rather than revolutionary.

The fact is - these words are hard hitting, active words that tell us how to live a Godly life. They are counter cultural and when applied will cause a revolution. There is nothing weak about them - they show strength in every area of our lives.

I'm up for starting a God revolution...... what about you? Care to join me?

Note: I won't be sharing them in order - I'm writing them up in the order the props arrive in the post!

Enjoy :o)

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Merry-Go-Round Roller Coaster

Oops- I haven't blogged for a while have I!
I have done a fun guest post  for Livability though - you can find it here

I don't think I will be doing much for a few weeks either as it's the season of children's camps and clubs. There's much to do!

Do pray for me and my lovely hubby though - two of the camps we do are not very accessible. I normally find them difficult and this year is going to be just as hard with the added complication of an arm that isn't working very well!
Neither of my wheelchairs will work on this camp site as they are not 'All terrain' chairs.

We have started the process of trying to get help towards an all terrain chair with the help of 'Access to Work' who have been very helpful - their system is great. But.... I understandably have to have an extra assessment to get the 'official line' on what I need to make life easier. This is done through the NHS where I'm told I have to start from scratch all over again because my last assessment was more than 2 years ago. So.... Two weeks to get a doctors appointment so I can get a referral to occupational therapy - then a possible three week wait to be assessed. They will then refer me to the wheelchair services dept where there is a possible nine week wait for assessment.
They will then suggest a wheelchair that won't really do what I need - so I then have to request a voucher as part payment towards one that will do what I need - and then go back to Access to Work to see if they will agree to fund the rest.

Exhausting isn't it!

This is one of the reasons why I independently got a cheap second hand lightweight electric chair for indoor conferences and trips to London - it's great, but it has become obvious I need a more robust one that is water proof, can go further on one charge, has suspension (Bumps REALLY hurt) and can cope with camps, but at £4000-£5000 I need help to do that. To take you back to the start of this story - this is why I have approached Access to Work.

There is no guarantee it will all come together as either agency could decide not to help - Access to work because they don't see my work as valid self employment, or the NHS because they can't afford to help and feel being pushed around by my husband is adequate independence.

Could you pray with me that this would work - and won't take three months to achieve!
But also that the camps would be an amazing life changing experience for all who come.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Enjoy the Miracles, But Don't Forget Your Communities

It does appear that given the choice of a seminar on signs and wonders and a seminar on making sure those with disabilities can access church, the majority will opt for the seminar on signs and wonders. 

That seminar is usually full to overflowing.

I find this slightly disturbing.

There’s been a lot of talk about healing on social media, both from Wales and from a couple of recent festivals - that’s wonderful!

But I still can’t helping feeling as though the finger of blame is pointing at those who are not healed - “those people have been healed, why not you?”

And now I hear of people getting into their cars and chasing the new welsh revival, much like they did with a well known “revival” in America in the last couple of years.

This gives me another question: Would as many folk do the same to learn how to make sure everyone - including those with disabilities - can access their church? Would they do that to learn how to include and teach children? 

The figures for those attending these sort of conferences speak for themselves…… No.

Don’t misunderstand me here - I believe in healing. I believe in Biblical signs and wonders. But I don’t believe it should be at the expense of caring for our communities. 

I believe there is the same amount of wonder in seeing a child with a profound disability worship as there is in witnessing a healing…. And I have witnessed both.

So here I am, a very quiet voice in the world of the church, putting my hand up and saying “Excuse me please! Enjoy the miracles, but don’t forget to care. Don’t forget that not everyone will be healed and will still need to access the church. And whatever you do - don’t forget the children.” 

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Forgotten Ones

I and many others are busy raising awareness about children with additional needs in our churches - there's a growing army of us!

But in all the forums, conferences, chats with families and focus groups what I'm finding is, there are still two groups of young people who are being forgotten.

There are lots of discussions about autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and other similar additional needs. That's great. The fact there is so much discussion (and sometimes heat) means these children are actually in our churches.  Awesome!

But where is the discussion on proper inclusion of children with physical disabilities? Hang on - where ARE the children with physical disabilities?? Have you noticed that on the whole, the only children we have with physical disabilities are those born to families already in the church?

There is no discussion, because there are no children to discuss.

And what about those children with hidden physical disabilities? I'm sure there are house bound young people with ME out there that would love contact with the church!

On chatting to a young lady in her teens recently, a girl who has a life limiting disease, she said that although she can't get out, she used to like getting invitations to church events, just because it meant she wasn't forgotten. Sadly, she no longer gets the invitations..... And she no longer feels included. No one from the youth team visits. How sad is that.

There is no discussion on these children/young people because they have quietly wheeled, limped or crawled their way out of the church for good - and that's if they managed to get in to start with. Many see the church as uncaring and uninterested and therefore don't even bother trying to come in.

We've fought the issues of physical access....... And many churches feel as though they've got that one ticked off their list. But they haven't.

Here's some things I bet many churches haven't thought through: 
- For a baptist type church, how do you baptise a young person who can't access the baptistry?
- If a young person who does not take food orally wants to take communion, what do you do? And what about young people with poor swallowing reflexes who choke/splutter when taking communion - how do you react?
- What do you do for the young person who is blind and can't see the amazing visual aids you've produced?
- Is it obvious how to access your church in a wheel chair with out having to ask? 
- Do you have an accessible parking space with enough room to open the car door wide so parents can transfer their child to a wheelchair more easily?

I think we need to look at our accessibility in our children's work, and if it is truly accessible..... We need to say on our publicity, on our websites an on our notice boards that our children's work is 'fully accessible' displaying the international signs for accessibility.

We also need to be intentional in our support of those children who are housebound due to disabilities, and also in our support of their families.

There are many children out there with life limiting diseases, their time for hearing the gospel is short, but it appears no one is reaching out to them. Why? The urgency is huge!

How about getting into the local specialist schools, or running carer's support groups. 

Use your imagination!

Don't wait for them to come to you, reach out to them.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

It's Fibro Awareness Day - this is what it means to me

I don’t usually complain about my Myofacial Pain Syndrome or Fibromyalgia on my blog or on social media. I try to talk to the friends who know me well and know how to pray and leave it with them to pray. The whole of social media doesn’t need to know!

But today is Fibromyalgia awareness day (Also ME, CFS and other similar disorders) SO…. I’m going to tell you what life is like at the moment.

I will start by saying that I still carry on doing what I do, I have to find other ways of doing them, but I carry on regardless. Not doing stuff wouldn’t make a difference, so I might as well carry on!

There’s something that many are not aware of that happens to those with a slowly deteriorating disease. Each downward step brings grief, and it sneaks up on you unawares. If you let it, it steals your joy and makes you want to give up. But I decided a long time ago not to let these conditions define me or stop me.

One milestone has brought me relief, fun, but also a return of that grief.

I got a second hand electric wheelchair! It’s great fun, it’s brought me independence (I can now do London meetings without having to drag Steve along and pay for an extra train ticket) and it’s so much more comfortable. 

But it’s also an aching reminder of what I no longer have. Two years ago I could manually wheel myself around, or go to London and use a walking stick (slowly) without worry.

The Fibro and the MPS fight each other, and lately it has been the MPS that has the upper hand. Causing severe pain and permanent damage in my left side - especially my arm/shoulder, hand/wrist making using my walking stick really difficult (I can’t balance if I use it in my other hand) But alongside that, the Fibro is causing weakness in my left leg!

Life is never dull with these conditions!

I still do what I do - but now I have to check accessibility of venues a lot more carefully. I have to book assistance (and hope that it works) for trips to London - why are so many meetings in London? It’s SO inaccessible! If someone chooses a venue where the local tube station is not accessible I either have to pay a fortune on taxis or not go. Considering many of my London meetings don’t pay expenses…… this is costing me a lot of money!

I recently asked on twitter and facebook if anyone knew of any well known speakers who were physically disabled, there were a few - but not many. There are not many in full time Christian work at all - and I can see why.  

I feel honored to do what I do - to serve the church and the children in it. I wouldn’t do anything else - this is what God has called me to and He hasn’t changed His mind! But I say the following with care - It’s flippin’ hard!

It’s not that people don’t care or are deliberately thoughtless, that is so far from the truth! The reality is, it just doesn’t occur to people that a venue may not be accessible, either through transport or steps. When they realise - they are genuinely mortified! But by that time, it’s too late to change, or the more accessible venues are not affordable.

There are of course those who refuse to understand the issues I face - usually people who have known me a long time and just can’t get their head around the fact I don’t function like I used to! But these people are in the minority.

I’m not the only one with these conditions - there are thousands more people with them, some worse than me.

Pray for us, pray for me, but also pray for those people in full time Christian work who have a disability - many of them hidden disabilities, some more obvious, but all of us having to work harder to do what we do.

NOTE: This is not written for sympathy - I don't like sympathy! That's why you'll often hear my hubby say un-politically correct things to me - it makes me laugh!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Can I Pray For Healing For You?

Can I pray for healing for you?

It’s a question I get asked a lot when I’m at Christian conferences.

One person asked if they could “Pray for my leg”. For a nano second I mulled over different responses.
“It’s not my leg that’s the problem at the moment - You’ve seen the walking stick and guessed”  was at the top of the list of more polite thoughts I considered.

I opted for “No Thankyou”

That was the least pushy offer of prayer for healing I’ve had recently. On one occasion I had to say “We are going to differ greatly in our theological standpoints on this, and I don’t think we will ever agree. So I am going to wheel away from you now. But thankyou for your concern.”

I use a walking stick and often use a wheelchair, so people assume my legs are my problem, therefore offering to pray into that area.

If some one came up to me and offered to pray for my arms I would be really impressed and ‘possibly’ agree, because that would show they were in conversation with the Holy Spirit about what I needed. This is because recently the pain I get in my arms and hands has been so excruciating it’s overtaken any other issues I get, including the muscles in my legs that won’t do as they’re told! It’s also made using my walking stick very difficult.

Over the past few months I’ve had many conversations with people about prayers for healing. For almost all of those people, the fact that people keep wanting to pray for healing for them or their disabled child has been their biggest source of pain and distress.

We all agreed with lots of points about this:
  • We are not projects for healing ministry, neither are we a problem to be solved - we are humans…. that happen to have a disability.
  • Offers of prayer should come out of mutual friendship and respect, but most offers tend to come out of exceedingly poor theology and even poorer understanding.
  • The idea of what constitutes healing differs greatly - depending on your theology.
  • It hurt that when prayers “didn’t work”, the people who prayed abandoned us because they didn’t know what to do. It was usually deemed to be the fault of the disabled person or their family (Or the sin of those long dead - also bad theology).
There were many more points raised by my hurting friends.

My faith levels have nothing to do with my illness continuing - the grace and faith that comes out of seeking God IN my disability is very important.

I have been given a measure of healing - not physically, but in my attitudes, in the way I view myself and others, and how I can be peaceful in the midst of pain. (That is, until some one wants to pray for healing….!!) 

We live in a world where bad stuff happens - we’re not immune from it just because we are Christians. The measure of my faith is not whether I am healed. What matters is how my relationship with God grows through my pain.

I acknowledge that physical healing does happen - and that’s great - I thank God for it gladly. But this is not a reason to look at me and my friends with pity because “It hasn’t happened for us yet”. 

I happily accept that there is a tension in this world - there is pain and suffering, and there is a God who loves. No matter what sort of day I’m having, God is still a God of Love.

I started writing this blog last week, and left it sitting on my computer. 
Then I saw this video - It said so much!  

I spend a lot of time fighting for those who have disabilities especially children who have disabilities and additional needs and it’s hard - the people who need to listen rarely do. My pain levels in the last few months have have been high too. I haven’t been discouraged - I have too many friends fighting my corner with me, but I have become tired. On listening to the video I felt as though God was saying “keep going - I’m with you! Keep shouting - I’m with you! I’m with you!!” It was something I needed to hear today.

If you want to pray for me..... pray that I can continue to be gracious to those who offer to pray for my healing....

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Perfectionism vs Caring Community

We're in the 21st Century, and in 'The Church', families who have children with additional needs are still being asked to leave because the church can't cope with them. If they are not asked to leave, they are left to struggle.

That probably sounds a bit harsh, but sadly it is true.

Let's look at how the meeting of Church and the 21st century is affecting those with disabilities:

A couple of years ago churches didn't think anything of having sound 'dead spots' in their main meeting room - which was a huge help to those who can't cope with sensory overload. But now, with the dawn of more advanced sound systems these 'dead spots' are frowned upon in the pursuit of a concert style sound (That is often louder than actually needed). If any one with autism, tinnitus or other conditions that don't cope with surround sound ask for a dead spot area, they are frowned upon because "It might ruin the experience for others". 

The fact that those 'others' don't notice a problem is incidental, as is the possibility that a young person with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder/Aspergers has been caused to run crying into the toilet to escape the sound.

In an attempt to make things visually more 'exciting' we have moving back grounds on screens where the song words are, making it impossible for many to read the words.

In an attempt to make worship 'flow' we don't announce which song is coming next meaning some with specific disabilities can't find the next song in the large print song book until it's nearly finished….. that's if there is a large print song book!

Caring for others, including those with disabilities is getting more and more lost in a sea of  so called improvements that make us more like the world but make our communities and our meetings less accessible. The need for perfection comes ahead of the need of the people. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg - for a person with a disability or additional need, whether they be an adult or child, Church is a difficult place to be and often a scary place.

It's because of this that I write about disability and the church. It's the reason that I shout and scream (and metaphorically stamp my feet) on Twitter and Facebook 

God put the idea that church should be accessible on my heart when I was 14 and volunteering on a camp for children who have disabilities…. a long time before I became disabled by some genetic quirk of muscles and neurology. I didn't find out that I had the conditions I have until I was 19 and training to be a nurse.

Many people think I campaign because I am disabled…. but I've only been using a wheelchair for a small number of years. I say this because some have levelled the accusation at me that I'm only campaigning to make life better for me. This is most definitely not true.

I campaign because I want everyone to be able to access the Gospel - no matter what form that access has to be. I am most passionate about children with disabilities and additional needs, but I also campaign for adults. It is pure co-incidence that I am now experiencing what I have been campaigning about.

I have found that if I give a talk or train people when sitting down - especially in a wheelchair, people don't take me as seriously as when I stand to speak….. why is that? Does my wheelchair take my brain away? This is why I plan pain medications to make sure I can stand - which surprised a few people at the last conference I spoke at. It wasn't the standing to speak that surprised them, but the fact that they later saw me in a wheelchair!

There are so many campaigns out there - lots of them wonderful and valid campaigns. They often get a great following. But I am left slightly bewildered by the fact that saving badgers gets more support than disability discrimination awareness!

In all the hard work and heart and soul I put into this campaigning, my 'head' tells me to give up, because it is obvious that majority of 'The Church' really couldn't give a stuff about it. But my heart tells me to keep going, because every so often it makes a small difference to one child or their family - a small difference in our eyes, but a huge difference in theirs.

What I do isn't about me - it's about kids and their families, it's about all those people who need to hear about the Love of Jesus but can't. It's about the care that Jesus tells us to have.

If Jesus was visiting some our churches, I don't think He would be in the main meeting….. I believe He would be in the toilet comforting that young person who couldn't cope with the noise.