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Back to the Start #helloFOCUS

Back to the start where you found me

I give you my heart again

Take everything I’m all I can bring

I’m coming home again

Martin Smith


Focus  is a church week away hosted by Holy Trinity Brompton  for their church and their network. About 7000  people gathered at a coastal resort in the south of England to grow deeper in their faith. It was a huge multi generational  church celebration. I loved it!

the final night

the final night

It was an opportunity to sing and worship long and loud. Now to be clear, you can passionately worship God in your living room, and there doesn’t need to be a band. But there is something about when God’s people gather together and worship God unapologetically and unashamed. It was great to be lost in the crowd, and yet singing to God as though it was just he and I in the room. There was time to be and I drank it in. It was a time to learn  and again, whilst I read books, listen to podcasts and love them all, it was fantastic to listen and take it all in. Focus took me back to the start.

I got to see some old friends, history friends, people whom I’d known since my college days or my early starting-out-in-ministry days. It was wonderful to see them and share stories of the journey. Suzi and me laughed about the time late one night when we prayed around a really dangerous neighborhood. I mean we were ridiculous; we could have got into trouble. We were naive yet bolshy and determined, believing God would do something, he had to. Decades on it’s a place of outreach and mission and transformed stories.

I’ve looked back on that era with some embarrassment at my youthful arrogance and my foolish daring. I’d called my mellowing a bit over the years maturity and wisdom. I unexpectedly longed to be foolish again.

More time with history friends. Talking about the all night prayer meetings we used to be a part of, the miracles we saw, the way the Holy Spirit moved. How we were privileged to witness a move of God. Time had passed; we’d fought battles and grown weary. We’d won some, but oh how we lost. There was so much loss; babies, friends and parents. Jobs and callings that never seemed to materialize. Promises broken, hope deferred. We’d stared human failure in the face – especially our own. 20 years had passed – we were still history makers like we used to sing? Could we be, would we be? I prayed and saw a picture of me out on the water seated on a surfboard, waiting for the next wave. Waiting.

Camber Sands

Camber Sands

Sometimes to know where you’re going you’ve got to reflect on where you’ve been, see who you used to be, check whether you’ve drifted. As I talked and prayed with old friends, worshipped and walked along the beach, a few thoughts emerged:

I had a renewed respect for the young woman I used to be. Sure I was intense (more than I am now, yes!) broken in many ways. But I was fierce and I loved God and was ready to pray all night to know him better and to meet him. And I believed, yes I believed he could changed the world and I saw him do it. In my heart, with my life, in my friends. In my community. We saw him do stuff that was off the chain, I was willing to pay the price because I knew He was worth it.

Secondly, I was aware how much we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit again. Sure, I could try and muster up the zeal of a former era. I could resolve that I would be who I used to be, but why try to fill an old wineskin? I wasn’t looking for nostalgia; I’m looking to see what the Father is doing now. Unapologetically. And I realized afresh that to live like Jesus lived I need to be empowered like Jesus was. Holy Spirit Come.

And: Surrender. There was a price 20 years ago, and I was young and desperate and precocious and weirdly arrogant enough to dare God to use me. But it wasn’t cheap. Now I’m a little bit more seasoned, a few bruises, even some scars. I’m battle weary, and a little heartsick in places. I’ve got vested interest in my comfort zones, self-justification for my sins. I’ve loved Jesus for 30 years now, by His grace I’m not leaving Him for anywhere else, but I noticed how hard it is to surrender it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. The guilt and the shame, the wounds and the blame and the comfort and the good easy stuff. I’m still me, and yet I wonder if I’ve got a little – respectable. That week I felt the call to surrender to His call again.

Can. These. Dry. Bones. Live?

It was a week of surrender, a week of listening, a week of reflecting and worshipping. Of breathing deep. Of Focus.

And in the distant recesses of my heart, I heard a rattling sound….

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