For those who think the title is a little harsh on the city of Bradford: my bike was stolen last night so I feel perfectly justified in quoting Obi Wan Kenobi's wise words. What to say about the last month? By all accounts, it's been a time filled with answer to prayer. Before moving down I was praying that God would prepare the way before me and that prayer has been answered quite wonderfully.
Praise be to God, who looks after his children and provides for their needs! I see this in many areas, firstly in the provision of work for the year. The Reach internship has been fantastic so far and a 9 to 5 job has its quiet satisfaction of a good job done well. I see this in the provision of housemates and friends, often a blessing that is easily taken for granted. And I see this so clearly in the church I go to. Christ Church Bradford could not have been more warn and welcoming (or more generous in their offer of food and Sunday lunches!). Working in a charismatic environment means that it is fast becoming a refuge of sanity in my life. Not that charismatic Christians are insane but that it's nice to have fellowship with Christians who are on the same page as me and who don't say things I internally wince at.
It's funny what makes me homesick - generally I don't feel it, being very busy and not having a nature predisposed to being emotional. But I made the mistake of watching a trailer for Sunshine on Leith, a film set in Edinburgh, with Scottish accents, racism against the English and music from the Proclaimers. Ouch, that tugged at my heart!
Working at CAP definitely generates a lot of food for thought. It can be quite hard to work out what I disagree with purely because I don't like it because it's not what I'm used to or what I disagree with because it's just plain wrong. The line can often be blurred and not easy to spot. At the very least, observing how charismatic doctrine plays out in practise is a fascinating experience.
Not, I hasten to add, that CAP is a hotbed of heresy, far from it. But it's a hotbed of Christians who speak a different language and have a different emphasis than I do. Difference generates conflict and the challenge is to keep loving even when disagreeing. Suffice to say, my disapproving face is getting a lot of practise.
Of course, the main thing I love about CAP is that, differences aside, it's a Christian organisation and that means a lot of good things. I am required to spend 15 minutes a day at work in corporate prayer. Brilliant. Although, human nature being what it is, only three weeks in I found myself wanting to do more work instead as though it were better than prayer! Also, there is the atmosphere of warmth and trust which really permeates the place. Even better, our cause is to glorify God in everything and working for that purpose is encouraged. The heart of CAP is to do God's work in helping the poor and needy. Oh yes, and there tends to be a lot of free food going about, enough said.
I am more convinced now, than before, of the great work CAP does. There was one story in particular that has stuck in my head. A couple, struggling with debt, had made a suicide pact they were going to carry out in the evening (40% of clients seriously consider suicide; 10% of clients attempt it) During the afternoon a debt centre worker visited them from CAP and just this one visit was enough to grant the couple hope that they could get through their financial problems. The pact went unfilled. Lives saved from death at the last minute.
Eagle eyes readers would have noticed a post briefly appearing then disappearing - this is not that post. It was gently pointed out to me that criticising your employer is a sure fire way of getting, well, fired. Not that I think CAP would do that but I'm going to talk it over first with HR and establish limits. Furthermore, I think it's also only fair that I voice my criticism first to CAP, through the established channels and then reflect on it here if appropriate.
This is the balance to walk on: unity in Christ on the one hand, necessary conflict on the other. Wonder at all that God is doing through CAP, frustration at other areas where our different views collide. In many respects, this is the balance we all must walk on whatever organisation we work for, whatever church we go to. Perfect agreement is for the life to come (and who knows, maybe not even then...)
Recently, I was reading through Psalm 135 and the words struck home with great force. It is a good thing to praise the Lord, at all times, with a bike stolen or in abundant blessing or in both. It is always pleasant to sing praise to God.
"Praise the name of the Lord;
praise him, you servants of the Lord,
2 you who minister in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God.
3 Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.
4 For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own,
Israel to be his treasured possession.
5 I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
6 The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens and on the earth,
in the seas and all their depths.
7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth;
he sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses."
If you wish to support CAP financially then you can do so here. Please give my name as a contact (i.e. in the "What prompted you to give to CAP box) as that will then count to my fundraising target for the year. The extent to which this affects my judgement I will let you be the judge of.