Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

landing, pacing and resting

Monday, October 30th, 2017

We’ve landed in Nidderdale at the property which will shortly host the Sanctuary’s new, bespoke prayer space… and are starting to feel settled here. Our hearts are very full – we can’t stop thanking and praising God for leading us every step of the way over this last stretch, and for leading us here – to a place of such wonder and beauty right in the heart of Yorkshire.


We’re also very tired after a busy few months ending in one location and packing up two properties in order to move to the new one.

So during November and December, we’ll be taking it gently, making sure we pace ourselves, rest and just enjoy settling in before we start thinking about building plans in the new year. And some of our central collective members will also be taking a well-earned holiday during this time-period too!

But we wanted to let you know we’re safely here, all has gone smoothly, we’re getting settled, we’re so excited about what’s coming… and we’re already being inspired to create here!

Here’s a psalm that bubbled up and overflowed out from Liz yesterday afternoon…

Bright valley is all smiles today –

awoken by the world’s strongest light

to shine back the favour

in glowing gold and green

and burnished brown bronze.

The brooks almost giggle their descent,

as if tickled out of shyness

by creeping warmth

illuminating bracken-scented shade

to shimmer their rush, flow and drop.

Shoals of sky-painters

dip, glide and weave,

brush-stroking broad blue

with passing shapes;

then, as I ascend the fell under them,

shift craft and lead me up

like a troupe of soaring minstrels

– bright pied-pipers by the dozen –

uplit and uplifting.

A distant floating balloon

punctuates blue with red, now white;

what does my below look like from that kind of above?

But I am glad to be on the ground today,

climbing to first flight-heights only.

For here each ordinary thing,

each overlooked scrap

of moss on wall

or grass underfoot

grows jewel-like

as if the land itself was a prayer,

or a hymn – or both.

And it is of course.

I tread the same fields and rocks

as monks and pilgrims.

And I wonder,

is the whole valley dancing anew

to welcome us home

to their ancient glory-scape?

I breathe in deep, fresh joy.

And I quiet.

And I am all smiles too.

freedom is as freedom does

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

We’ve uploaded a new resource. Freedom is as freedom does is a poem celebrating the kingdom understanding of individual liberty as being inter-connected with others’ worth and flourishing. You can download it as a printable pdf from our articles and poetry page or read it below:


Freedom is as freedom does

I’m still learning freedom is as freedom does;
it’s about the you – as well as the me – contained in us…

Heaven’s maths and kingdom equality are set by the one who is also three,
one who multiplies his connection-reflection in billions more like me.

The West tells me: “live the material gospel of individuality!”
But I cannot be free if I’m bound up in someone else’s slavery.

Consumer culture persuades me “make more to have more to one day be enough”.
But I’ll never find my wings in the service of amassing endless stuff.

It’s not real plenty when it comes at such poverty-sustaining cost.
It’s not seeing the world if others’ homes and habitats get lost.

It’s simply not real life if it clutters my days with distraction
and robs me of time and space with my One True Satisfaction.

So God of freedom, crash through all my self-justifying defences;
help me see better through this matrix and come to my senses.

It was for freedom that you so extravagantly set us free,
not for comfort, but for upward and outward relational liberty.

For I am not just I – I am in you and I am in your body.
So I am less with every threat to – every theft from – our corporately.
But I am more – and I am free – when I surrender to you; utterly.

inherently seasonal

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Autumn is all around us, ripe with so many deeper pictures if we look closely. A few days ago, we shared some thoughts inspired by autumn raspberries – this week, several of us have been talking about harvested apples…

On Monday our prayer rhythm’s daily verse was Psalm 39:4: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” visualised by the brilliant Logos as follows:

It really stuck with us… perhaps especially because Autumn leaves in various states of colouring and falling are all around us now.

And it got us thinking about how seasons (physical and spiritual) work the same way as life – each has a ‘measure’ to its days; every single one, to varying degrees, is ‘fleeting’.

Perhaps one of the ways many of us come unstuck sometimes is when we forget this – when we don’t remember how inherently seasonal things are.

Sometimes when something good comes to an end, we even start questioning whether it should have happened… sometimes when God gives us something new for one season we keep it going long, long beyond its appointed time… and sometimes when something new is given we question whether what was given before it was really good after all.

(Aside: perhaps this may not be so much a failing as another glimpse of how we were made for eternity… although, will there be no seasons in eternity? That’s hard to call…)

And then as we thought about picking all the apples many of us have been growing in our gardens, we realised again how little we – or the apple trees themselves – question whether they definitely were apple trees once they have no fruit in them… or try to hang on to the apples indefinitely, way beyond the next few weeks, just because they’re good to eat now…. or dismiss blossom as pointless now the fruit has come in its place.

Autumn is here, it’s time to rejoice in what’s been grown and harvested – and to use up all its good gifts thankfully, knowing new seasons will bring new growth and new crops and nothing has materially changed; an apple tree is an apple tree is an apple tree…

We responded by worshipping with these beautiful song words from Kristene Di Marco’s song, Jesus, Your Love – you might like to join us:

“So let my heart 
tell you again
when seasons change 
and stories end,
Your steady love
it will sustain
me through it all –
Jesus, Your love.”

autumn raspberries

Monday, September 18th, 2017

God’s been speaking to us over the last few days through Autumn raspberries we’re trying – and not managing – to stay on top of picking…


They feel completely miraculous… we can barely keep up with their fruitfulness!

One minute they look completely stripped bare, like there’s nothing left to give and you’ve cleaned them out completely… and then, sometimes as little as half a day later, there are loads more to pick.

We felt God highlight to us that this is what we feel like at the moment after a very intense few months of ministry and movement and with transition still not fully behind us;  like we’ve been picked bare and there’s nothing more to give… but then all this fruit still comes.

The prayer rhythm is up and running again. The trial dispersed email has been created and is already fizzing with life. The new season is getting planned. New creative outreach projects are already being prepared. New resources are being drafted. And the second round of boxes are somehow also getting packed in and around it all.

And best of all, he is inspiring faith and joy and bringing life and beauty and laughter and giving us rest and strength to pray and share and shape new visions and strategies of actions to take. He’s a remarkable source for never-ending fruit!

How often, and how easily, we seem to forget that our supply is eternal…

That we can be like the beautiful image of the Psalm 1 tree when we plant ourselves in him.

This week we heard that one of the “fruitiest” Christians a number of us have ever met, and who has ever prayed for and supported the Sanctuary, had gone to be with Jesus after a long and faithful life. He will be over the moon!

But his going – whilst leaving a huge legacy among so, so many people – will leave a large gap because he and his wife of later years just kept fruiting. When they couldn’t go out as much they focused on leading their neighbours to Jesus, when they couldn’t take action they prayed.

In every season there they were – raspberries, raspberries, raspberries. Lush, extraordinary, beautiful lives that shone all the more brightly the frailer they got – more and more transparent to Jesus’ love.

Their lives – and our raspberries – reminded us of a scripture which several of us had been thinking about a few days before the raspberries came to our attention. So we’re passing it on to you, along with these reflections, and praying its truth over every one of you facing any kind of trial, strain, sorrow or stretch at the moment.

Could do the same for those known to you facing these kind of situations too?

But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. 

We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 

We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 The Voice)

new season – new ways to pray with us

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Welcome to the Sanctuary’s new season and an update on some new and emerging ways to pray with us that we’re really excited to tell you about; especially if you’ve not been able to engage in our prayer rhythm previously because of physical distance from our base in the heart of the UK.

To jump straight in, visit pray with us; to find out more, keep reading…

At the heart of everything we are and do at the Sanctuary is worship and intercession. And, most centrally of all, our daily prayer rhythm of both, which has been running for more than seven years.

For the last five years of these seven – September 2012 to Augst 2017 – this rhythm was based at 6 Church Street, Ilkley. During this time – as part of a public centre set up, run in a shop-front space – we opened up this prayer rhythm up to everyone and anyone…

Monday to Friday we were there, three times a day, gathering with regulars, visitors and people passing through to worship God and lift the world – and every one in seven billion within it he so loves – to him.

But as of 1 September 2017, that changed as our occupation of 6 Church Street ended on 31 August.

We’re in the process of moving to our new base and preparing to work towards building a new small, bespoke prayer space there from scratch, which will even more closely match the vision God first gave us in 2009.

Of course, despite the disruption, inevitable mixed emotions and endless boxes(!) this is all very exciting…

But much more importantly, we’re entering a new season with a new model of working better suited to developing and growing – in both depth reach – our vision of engaging ourselves and others in sustained prayer for the nations, resourcing the church in outward focused worship and reaching out in creative ways to those who have not yet encountered God’s love.

In short, our vision and work (aside from expansion of the latter made possible by increased capacity) isn’t really changing. We’re still committed to obeying everything God has called us to do to explore, share and resource the journey towards the place where world and worship meet.

But the way we go about our work, and who we open some elements of it to, is changing.

The biggest change in our new model is that we’re shifting away from running a public centre to go both deeper and wider.

The deeper part is that the new base we’re developing will be much more of a hub,  a restorative, spacious and more private place which serves and facilitates the collective of people involved with actually carrying out the Sanctuary’s core work. Somewhere to gather, pray and work in and out of together in a more focused way.

The wider part is that we’re re-orientating how we do the rhythm to share the absolute treasure store we’ve found it to be with many, many more people than just those who were able to come through our front door when we  ran a public centre.

Shortly after our old base opened, one of our pray-ers asked if we could start sharing the famous whiteboard we used as the focus for the rhythm each day so that she could still pray with it even if she couldn’t come in that day.

And so we did – and suddenly, as well as our worship resources being used by people all over the world, people elsewhere started to use the whiteboard too…

Any prayer rhythm participation happening remotely was always just overflow – an added blessing… and because we were preparing each morning, we couldn’t usually share it until after morning worship.

But now this is all turning upside-down.

In our interim phase – now up until when the new prayer space has been built and is ready – and beyond it, even when our collective can gather again, we’re choosing to operate and resource the dispersed elements of our prayer rhythm much more deliberately.

So wherever you’re reading this, can we extend to you the warmest of invitations to join in with our daily rhythm remotely?

Because now the focus for any given day in the rhythm is being published late afternoon/early evening on the previous day. So no matter what time you check in Monday-Friday, wherever you are in the world, whatever time zone you live in and however early you like to pray, you should be able to find the focus there ready and waiting for you already!

Currently you can do this by following us on twitter or using the feed on the right hand side of our homepage to find out what our focus for worship and intercession is that day – and then join in with it!

(See our source document to view!some of the cycles behind the rhythm.)

But we hope more is coming too…

Hot off the press: we have also begun the process of trialing a daily email which resources this prayer rhythm in much more depth with a small group of our most committed pray-ers, with the view to exploring being able to offer this much more widely once it’s further developed.

We’re only a few days into this but the early signs suggest the road ahead could be more beautiful and transformational than we had even thought to imagine.

We’ll keep you posted but meanwhile, with the day’s focus now available to you in plenty of time each day, we’d love you to pray with us

If you have any questions about this, or any other element of the Sanctuary’s work, please do just contact us

lessons in beautiful transparency

Friday, August 4th, 2017

At the suggestion of one of our pray-ers, we’ve created a rather special, gift resource for you. It’s a souvenir and thanksgiving offering to celebrate our time at our first base, and to share the testimony of how God used a window to beckon us into greater bravery and train us in the art of how to communicate the gospel in beautifully transparent ways

we’re taking flight

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The Sanctuary’s time being based at our first physical home – 6 Church Street, Ilkley – is coming to an end, following us giving twelve months notice to leave the space this time last year. We’ll be taking flight on 31 August as another step towards creating a new base of our own and adjusting our current, public access model. And so we’re using these last few weeks of having our shop-front windows onto the A65 to begin sharing thank yous and goodbyes for the five years of generous hospitality given to us by All Saints Church…

To do this, we’ve brought together elements from two previous windows – created for Yorkshire Day 2015 and New Year 2016 – featuring the work of our two most talented artists – Alison Hodson and Barbara Macnish.

What better to say what we want to over this year’s Yorkshire Day (1 August) and as we prepare to enter another new season on the Sanctuary’s journey.

The text on the window reads:

“We’re taking flight!

We’ve loved sharing our prayers and creations with you through this space.

Thank you for having us All Saints Church! And goodbye and God bless to all our neighbours and passers by.”

It is then signed by the principal members of ‘team window’ – Jill, Liz, Alison and Barbara – on behalf of everyone at the Sanctuary.

We’re planning to work with landlords and councils going forward to make use of multiple, empty shop-fronts so this isn’t the end of our window work – but for this last of our first batch, at our first base, the main team of creatives involved all got together to celebrate the journey of the last five years and raise a toast to the glass that helped train us all in the art of communicating the gospel in beautifully transparent ways:

entering our bigger story

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

During July, we’re spending the majority of our morning worship rhythms setting our own stories – and the Sanctuary’s story – within the bigger story we live in: God’s. One of our principal tools for this, and for inspiring the reflective discussion questions and prayer foci we’re using for it, is the album  Music inspired by the story. It explores key biblical characters’ inner motivations and sacrifices of praise in songs that feel  like both unique-to-the-character dramatic monologues and worship we could all sing.

Each day, we’re taking a different track and responding to it, the wider biblical narrative it brings to life and how it speaks into our individual lives and callings, the people and situations on our heart to pray for and the season of the transition the Sanctuary is currently in as we prepare to leave our current premises next month.

We’re also creating a growing prayer installation with symbols for each story’s message on it…


We’re just two days in and it’s been so powerful, we wanted to invite you in too!

Obviously the main stimulus for this is the music and lyrics which aren’t ours to publish, but if you’d like to join us – and we highly recommend you do – order the CD/mp3 download and use a track a day yourself in prayer… exploring what each part of the larger story speaks into your own and your intercession for others’.

Again we can’t share all the details of what we’re discussing and praying in response online, but you will see some of it if you follow our twitter feed either on twitter itself, or on the feed displayed on our main website home page and this blog’s landing page – you don’t have to be on twitter to access these feeds… just use the scroll bars to move up and down.

Enjoy the story!

breaking the depersonalisation of personalities

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

It is a deeply sad irony that an era that so champions the individual should lead to so much depersonalisation of those it elevates as ‘personalities’. But it is ultimately unsurprising. Because at the root of individualism is not really individuals at all, but rather just one individual… the one with a capital I.

So just as the too-often-forgotten-ones in seven billion lose their names, faces and value in comparison to me and my uniqueness and needsthe overly-remembered-ones in seven billion are often inevitably robbed of their three dimensionality too…

This is deeply out of line with the heart of God towards humanity, and the heart for people we must seek to pray – and live – out of, if we want to love like Jesus. So how do we recognise when it’s happening in us and ask for God’s help to champion something different? Especially when it’s directed towards people we are urged to particularly pray for such as our leaders and politicians?

Today is the 2017 ‘snap’ General Election and, please God, the majority of the UK will be casting their vote for their preferred candidate today following around two months of intense political campaigning and commentating.

People feel strongly and politics is important. It is important to challenge injustice and unwise decisions. Sometimes strong arguments need to be made. Righteous anger even has a place. But…

… when individuals are referred to only by their surnames, reduced only to their political alignments, intentionally and deliberately spectated scrupulously and eagerly for the first sign of any mistake or sign of limitation so they can be lambasted or mocked for it… something is deeply wrong.

When it’s overlooked that there are only twenty four hours in a day and a myriad of demands and friends and family and breathing space all needing to be given by candidates alongside memorising manifestos… something is out of control.

When those considered weak or somehow unqualified are belittled and those considered strong and brilliant are so envied that their tearing down is earnestly desired… a house is truly divided against itself.

When even those professing to love God and others are happy to ridicule and vilify their leaders and potential leaders rather than expressing thanks and prayerful value for the those standing, and focusing on examining their policies and yes – to a point – and in loving respect, consider their characters as to their fitness to lead… we, the church, need to get on our knees and repent.

Surely each of us know by now – and if we don’t perhaps we need to ask some further questions of ourselves – the cost of standing up publicly for what you believe in, especially when it is the minority view; the limitations of our own strength in always living out what we know to be true; the very real struggle of balancing calling with family life; the amount of encouragement and strength you need if you’re really going to step out as a faithful pioneer for the sake of the kingdom…

Surely we – who’ve experienced grace upon grace – can model more mercy and appreciation and value to our leaders.

Surely we who follow a Lord who made a point of going after whoever was marginalised in society – including compromising, colluding tax collectors – know that first in line for the twelve today might well be a banker or a politician as much as someone in desperate financial need.

We’re putting this strongly because it feels urgent, whoever is elected. And because finding another way is so easy – and equally inevitable and infectious – when you spend time in prayer.

It’s a way we’ve been led to on our knees. Bit by bit. Stage by stage we’re starting to not just pray for leaders, but to love them too…

Not just in some amorphous, floaty way, but in a specific, deliberate way which looks for whatever is good and noble in them, seeks to understand how they’ve arrived at the views they have (even if we really struggle with them!), seeks to celebrate and bless them every time we pray or talk about them and looks for ways to engage with them that will build them up in themselves as well as communicate what we think or what we’re hoping they’ll do.

These are the decisions that have helped us – little by little – make progress on this journey of counter-cultural love…

  1. We seek to always make a point of calling everyone by their given name whenever we talk about them. We use their first name on its own in prayer as often as we can, and their full name the rest of the time, rather than just their surnames. (We’ve found looking up what their first names mean has further helped in informing our blessing of them. Engaging with who they are and how God sees them makes immeasurable difference.)
  2. We’re starting to invest in taking our time “getting to know” people we pray for/about as much as possible (especially where we disagree with their stance a lot of the time). Almost all public figures have some biographical information available so we’ve been looking it up and spending a while reading it carefully during prayer, having first asked God to prepare our hearts towards them.
    We’re deliberately look for pieces of information that reveal their distinct personhood, evoke respect or inspire empathy… asking: what talents has God clearly given them? What positive character attributes do they exemplify? What experience do they have which brings richness, or helps us understand why they see the world they way they do? What can we celebrate about them, or identify with from our own experience?
  3. We make sure we try to look at them face to face when we’re praying… as if they were with us in the room receiving prayer ministry! We’ve found that finding honouring photos of them that show them smiling – not caught on camera in an unwitting, unflattering moment – really help. And again, taking time to sit and connect with God and them, and praying for a soft heart towards them, has really helped.
  4. We ask God to help us see them as he sees them, and to give us his heart of love for them… although by this point we rarely don’t have our own sense of love and compassion rising! And we ask God if there’s anything he wants to show us about who they are or how to pray for them.
  5. We consciously try to remember these are real people with real lives. So we remember that people gain or lose jobs at elections, have to balance the sacrifice of standing and demands of the work with family needs, and have the same limitations and vulnerabilities we do to stress, over-work, public criticism, under-valuing, sleeplessness or anything else that feels like it might go with the territory.

Tomorrow, campaigning and election fever will be over. But engagement needs to continue. Whatever the result and however we feel about it, could we see 9 June 2017 as a new beginning in our hearts that transforms the nature of our thoughts, prayers, speech and actions towards and about politicians – and all public personalities – going forward.

Love doesn’t score points or impress others with ruthlessly witty one liners. Love will not tolerate scorn, derision, envy or depersonalisation.

Because love does not seek to diminish, distrust or destroy.

No.

Love looks hard and finds the good.

Love celebrates the unique individual made in God’s image and reflecting his glory.

Love champions and extends grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Love expresses thanks for hearts and acts of public service.

Love sees and understands the cost.

Love mourns and rejoices at the right times.

Love never fails.

 

 

 

 

 

GE2017 – ready-to-send love

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Last week we shared how prayer and discussion had led us to see the general election as a gift of opportunity – and the plans we were putting in motion to bless every candidate with an encouraging message of love that also spoke up for others who need courage and love. We promised you we’d share as much as we can in case you want to write to your own candidates too, so this blog is to do that:

Over the last week we’ve been crafting these cards, writing a bespoke message to each candidate in response to positive experience and achievements in their bios, continuing to pray for each one by name, and putting together a joint letter to them all to speak up for the most vulnerable in our society – and the kind of nation the UK could be.

We can’t share the personal messages we hand wrote in each YOU ARE LOVED card because they are specific to the individual candidates’ personal details and wouldn’t help you craft yours in any case.

But we found a bespoke way to thank each and every candidate for standing up publically, acknowledge the inevitable personal cost of doing so, assure them of our prayers and affirm everything in their record which showed their skill and/or track record of standing up for vulnerable people and important issues.

And we told them they are loved and valued by every one of us – whether we’re voting for them or not.

We also told them that we’d agonised over including the letter alongside the card because we just wanted to affirm them at such a stressful time, but that this election was too key not to also raise others who we are praying for – and value so deeply – too.

Here is the text we included in the text to that letter, in case you would like to lift it into something similar of your own to your candidates:

“Dear Ros, David, John, Kris, Paul and Matt,

As candidates in this general election – happening at such a key time in our nation’s history – we wanted to write to you as a praying community seeking to champion the value of each and every one in seven billion people alive today. We feel it’s a vital time to stand up for the kind of nation we want to be and to ensure that the most vulnerable in our world, nation and community are prioritised alongside everyone else.

To that end, we’re sharing this brief list of the issues that feel most important to all of us – no matter which party we are each voting for – for our next government (and whoever of you is elected to parliament) to address. We’ve not included much information; we know you will be deluged, but have bracketed at least one expert and trusted organisation’s website after each one so you can find out more if you want:

Global issues

National issues

Thank you so much for your time. God bless you all,

The Sanctuary’s praying community”