Too old - or not old enough

My heart thumps as the pain crashes noisily into my chest. Ears reverberate uncomfortably.

Even my backbone can feel it.

"I'm too old for this," I grin at my husband. He smiles, trying to agree with whatever he thinks I may be saying.

After standing in line for 30 minutes waiting to get in, I was glad to be able to sit down, rest my lower back; yet I was excited. Here we are, at last, at Cwmbran, just 40 minutes away from our home, yet in a foreign land across the Severn Bridge.

Wales. Home of my grandfather, beloved of my mother, who could speak just a smattering of its indecipherable sounds. She loved Welsh rugby, Welsh hymns, Welsh male voice choirs, Welsh cakes, Welsh cousins - Jenny and Gwendoline, who lived near Aberystwyth. I can just remember visiting them once, when I was small.

And now here I am again. In south Wales, but without the rugby, the hymns, the choirs or the cakes. Just a breezeblock rectangle of a building, and a worship band from Hertfordshire.

Now, I know that God commands us to sing a new song; but frankly, without any words on the screen I have no idea what we are singing. It's just noise. It's certainly new to me, but others seem to be enjoying the moment, swaying with outstretched arms. Then words appear and the sound changes - slightly - and the noise level increases, something I had not thought possible.


Twenty five minutes have passed. My excitement is still there but slightly less tangible, slightly crushed by the noise. A third song flashes on to the screen, and we are urged to MOVE. Move because God does something when we move, so move into the aisles and sing this song, asking for the fire of God.

I KNOW THIS SONG! I leap into the aisle, across my husband's crossed legs (he's still sitting down, trying to pretend he isn't being deafened) as I want to know more of God in my life. That's why I've come! Pursuing God just as He, the Hound of Heaven, pursues me.

Set a fire down in my soul  That I can't contain, that I can't control - I want more of you, God, I want more of you, God.

I mouth the words, hands held wide, trying to hear the lyrical version in my head whilst my ears hear the drums crash and the electrics flail.

I'm obviously too old for all of this. The spirit of it eludes me.

A young pastor leaps on to the stage and begins to talk of the God who sets us free - free from lust and addictions and pornography and problems. He is passionate  - passionate in his obvious love for the Lord, the Lord who has freed him from his own problems, met with him in prison, transformed his life. There is a call for those who are struggling with problems of lust to come forward for prayer, for the Lord to set them free.

This is REAL. This is where people are, this is where people struggle. They go forward, receive prayer individually while the rest of us are asked to stretch out our hands and pray for them.

The band resumes playing, we sing again - at least, I assume we do, I can't hear anything except the noise from the band. But they are enthusiastic, shouting their praise, their new song. Maybe I envy them their new song to the Lord.

The young pastor returns, and begins his talk.

His words are real, open, honest. Full of truth, full of Scripture, full of power from on high.

Full of the One who gives life and freedom -  who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

And of how this One made me and loves me and has the power to transform me. And through me, those around me.

He talks of how dangerously close to the line we live. The line of sin, of desire, of lust, of seeing and doing what we should not. How we try to stand too close to that line. And how instead we should live far from that line and close to the Cross of Christ.

With his foot he draws an imaginary line across the front of the stage; shows how close to it we try to balance. Walks back to the cross standing simply with red draped cloth.  There is where we should be, clinging to that Cross.

Oh, I know, I know.

And if we do not yet know Christ then tonight is the night, our night. To come to the cross.

And if we have back slidden then it's time to slide back. Back to the cross.

So he calls us to the Altar, to the front, to be prayed for. Come, he urges, come to this altar where Christ will alter your life. Come if you don't know Him, come if you have slipped away from Him, come and be filled with His power and His Life and His Love.

They go forward, mostly men, men of all ages, young and old, standing or kneeling, coming to the Cross.

The band go forward too, playing more quietly now, as people begin to slip forward. The pastoral care team are called out to pray with people. And there is another altar call -this time for those who want more of God, more of His Spirit, to be filled anew.

I'm there.

I wait. Others are there too. On my left, two little elderly Welsh ladies. I'd seen them queuing near me before the service began. They have been sitting in front of us. Quietly, not seeming to join in with very much. But here they are. Eventually a woman prays for them, just a hand on a forehead, a murmur of words, a tall young man standing behind each as she prays. First one and then the other, they drop back into him and he lowers them each to the ground. Someone else covers each with a blanket. They lie there, eyes closed.

I wait.

Set a fire down in my soul - I want more of you Lord.

I wait.

Eventually a woman lays a hand on my forehead, and I can feel a hand on my back.

Set a fire down in my soul - I want more of you Lord.

The tears flow. I want more of you, Lord. More of your love; more of your transforming, healing power.

But I don't fall backwards - perhaps I'm not old enough. There's no jolt of power, no explosion of feeling. Just those tears.

* * * 

People are beginning to slip away. The room had not been full - the previous night apparently had been packed, with the overflow rooms packed too. We had avoided Monday night - the website had told of visiting speakers and big events. We just wanted an 'ordinary ' night of this outpouring.

And it's time for us to drive home, too. Outside, at nearly 10pm, it' still light. A luminous, balmy summer's evening, with a bright moon and pinkly wisps of cloud. There's something in the air, a lightness in my spirit, a quiet feeling of having been in God's Presence. Of having been touched in some indescribable way - by those powerful words of simple preaching reminding me of all that God offers me. By the powerful words of a man who moved from pipe to pulpit, from drugs to prison to LIFE. Of how the Lord takes us and transforms us. Makes us a new creation, restored, renewed, regenerated. Able to walk out free from all that has taken hold of us, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. Amazing grace.

* * *

We saw no physical healings - or none that we know of. But we did hear God's word powerfully preached, see lives touched, people respond. WE respond. And felt God in our lives.  Quietly, simply. Undeniably.

It was Day 71 of what is being called the Welsh Outpouring - of this little breezeblock church on an industrial site sharing the Lord night by night with anyone who wants to come. It's not professional, it's not based on personality (I don't even know who the preacher was or whether he was one of their own pastors) But it IS powerful, a profound preaching of the power of the Gospel. The Gospel, the preacher said - the Gospel is not just for new Christians, the Gospel is for life. 

* * *

Have you been to Cwmbran yet? How did God speak to you? Might you share?







































Linking up with Tania Vaughan's new blog series, to proactively take Sunday into the rest of the week. Sundays are suddenly different. Not better not worse - just different. After 33 years, my husband is no longer a full time priest; nor am  I on a church staff any more. I am just - JUST!  - a normal pew filler. Well, chair occupier. And it's different from the back row than the front one.

Especially where we are now going to 'church.' I say church advisedly - we meet in Komedia, "Bath's award-winning venue for comedy, music, cabaret and club nights " as it describes itself. So yesterday the floor was sticky - noisily sticky. It's a dark theatre with no windows. And we sit on theatre-type red plush velvet chairs.

Its not Anglican. We are even having a sabbatical from that.

Two baskets are passed around after the worship. One is to contribute financially if one feels prompted to do so - we are told there is no pressure and certainly not for visitors; the other is - oh joy!  - full of sweets! Help yourself to something to chew/suck/delight in during the talk. Red love hearts of dark chocolate. Miniature tubes of parma violets and love hearts. Lollipops.

Yesterday, I took 2 red shiny papered chocolate hearts. Smoothed the empty papers and folded and refolded as I tried to listen.

But MY heart was full of something else.

Something we had sung.

"And I - I surrender

All to you, All to you ..."

It wasn't the 'normal' surrender - me, my life, my desires, my possessions ....

It was the pain of the previous week.

Surrendering even that. Letting go of my right to the pain.

It was all I had to offer up. I opened palms up, imagined the pain leaning on them.

Here it is, Lord. It's all I have right now to give You.

* * *

Monday morning. Awakening to the memory of the pain.

And the memory of the offering. Offered once, now offered again.

The reality of Sunday's offering needed in the reality of the light of Monday morning.

* * *

And again, a certain relief in the offering. Remembering how it felt the first time. Needing to feel that again - 'seeing' Him on the Cross metaphorically leaning down to take my pain and add it to what is already carried in His body.

Died He for me - who caused His pain?


And for those pains of mine and for those who caused them.

Amazing Grace.

I surrender all to You - even my pain.

And in surrendering, know His grace.

I will need it again tomorrow - and tomorrow - for I forget and the vision leaks.

* * *

Monday is the test of Sunday's reality. To God be the glory. All is gift.