Hazel Flood's thoughts on life as a Jesus follower.

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Tell them the dream, Martin

Once upon a time a woman in a crowd called out to a faltering preacher. She cried out ‘Tell them the dream, Martin, tell them the dream!’

I wonder if she hadn’t, would we know the theme that pounded through Martin Luther King’s heart?

Would we be so familiar with the rhythms of the speech so ably and beautifully delivered?

Would our hearts beat so hard when we heard the phrase ‘I have a dream’?

Or would we have forgotten the preacher who longed for more but stumbled over his words and went home feeling he’d failed? I think it’s highly likely.

The brave woman, the singer Mahalia Jackson, made a world of difference in a world that needed to be different, she called out the dream in the person she believed carried such vision within him that he must not keep it hidden, he must not keep it quiet.
Because she did this, now we know his dream and now to some extent we see the dream come true..

What’s my point?

My point is without a dream nothing happens and without people who know us and know our dreams they may not get called out from us to make the difference in the world they were given to accomplish.

We need to dream the dreams God plants in our hearts, we need good, close, faithful friends who will provoke us to be a voice to change nations, to see the kingdom extending into the world.

What can you do?

Seek God, dream your dreams, and make your friends. The world needs you to change it. Now.

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Soaking Prayer…..Some Practical Stuff

Before we start to look at the details of how to do soaking prayer there is a question to be answered:

‘Is this something we can imagine Jesus doing?’

Do the gospels give us any clues?

Let’s just take a moment to think about this, Jesus spent whole nights of prayer with His Father, I don’t think He would have been talking for all of the time, a fair amount of it could have been spent resting, looking at the stars, listening to the sounds of the night, and giving consideration to all He was going to have to do for those around Him.
Plenty of the time could have been spent enjoying the truth that He was entirely and utterly loved by His Father and that in the not too distant future He would be going back to be with Him.

Sounds a lot like soaking to me.

If we want to soak what does it look like and how do we do it?

Is it something we can just ‘do’ or is it something which happens to us with no initiative on our part?

We are told to wait on God, to rest in Him, to find our strength and our joy in Him.
Soaking is one way we can do this, and yes, we can ‘just do it’, the same way as we can just choose to ‘do’ worship.
As Spirit born and Spirit indwelt believers know we come into worship or prayer of any sort by our own decision, and as we engage our hearts we find we enter into a different level of awareness, at least we do if not we’re not simply going through the motions much as if we spoke to our husband or wife with seemingly loving words but with no inner connection.

There are various forms of prayer. We can pray in whatever way we find most comfortable, talking to God about whatever is on our hearts and minds. We can pray in tongues. We can intercede, this is my fierce praying, I put worship music on and join in and worship for a while then I start to pray for those big things which are on my mind and stirring my heart. I will walk around as I pray hard and I find God often speaks to me for other people during these times.
I daresay you can think of other methods of prayer, but my main focus today is to look at the practical details of soaking prayer.

First of all, it isn’t difficult, nor is it hard work.
You might say it’s a bit of a sabbath rest, a place of trusting Him with our time, our busyness, our to-do list.

When we soak we position ourselves in a place of conscious rest before God, knowing we are loved and accepted in Jesus, and we make ourselves deliberately available to Him.
When we spend time doing this we find our minds and hearts becoming filled with love for Him as we consider Him who has loved us and shown us such extravagant mercy and grace.

I find having some worship music playing is good for me, if I tried silence I think I would find my mind wandering, but when I use familiar worship songs I find I resonate with some of the lyrics and they provoke me to prayer as well as worship.

As you begin it is helpful to make sure you bring anything that you are aware of which is in the way between you and God and deal with it. There’s no point trying to ignore it He will only bring it up while you soak anyway, so you might as well get it out in the open with Him and sort it.

I guess the easiest thing is to tell you what I do when I soak.

Right, the worship music is on, I start to worship God and if there is anything on my mind I talk to Him about it, whether it is sin in me, or something I’m carrying around with me praying for on and off through the day.
When I’m ready I start to worship and enjoy Him. At some point, probably a couple of songs in, I find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down.

I continue to engage with Him by focussing on Him, knowing His eye is on me and He loves me, it’s like we make eye contact.
I want Him to know I love Him and am utterly given over to Him and His will.
I respond inwardly to the worship lyrics when they are particularly appropriate for that moment.

An album I enjoy soaking to is Still Believe by Kim Walker Smith, by the time I get to the track ‘The King is Here’ I have usually settled myself down and I listen to those lyrics and rest in the truth of them, He IS here.
Pondering this for a while is enough to begin a change in my interior landscape, if I’ve been stressed then this will help me to know His peace as I start to realise He is there in the room with me.
As I continue in this way the quiet peace that comes is lovely.

I have known Him to show me areas where He wants to see change, whether that is me learning to deal with something differently or seeing something from another point of view. I’ve had both of these in the last couple of weeks and found them powerfully releasing.

Do I always get revelation? No, definitely not, sometimes it is simply a time of resting in His presence, making myself aware of Him, practising His presence, and telling Him that I am available and for Him to do whatever He wishes with me, but even when there is no great shift in my understanding, I do know a greater level of peace, I know He has restored my soul, He has made me welcome as I have approached Him, taking Him at His word when He says ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’

When I feel He is showing me His heart about someone or a situation I stop to write in my journal whatever it is He is revealing.
If it is something in me I need to deal with I will do that in whatever way is appropriate. Sometimes it’s just a case of holding on to a new way of seeing a situation and making sure that changes the way I respond to anything similar in the future. I record this in my journal too, then I get back to soaking in His presence.

This really isn’t just a soft and fluffy way of spending time, it can be radical in dealing with issues, radical in the true sense of the word, getting to the root of something which has grown up over time.
Perhaps strongholds in thinking and reactions to life can be exposed as having begun through a particular event which He then shows you how to look at from His perspective. This isn’t always a cosy moment, but even if it is uncomfortable it communicates His deep kindness and brings release or the beginning of freedom.
It also brings responsibility as once we can see His point of view then we have to make the choice, will we engage with Him fully on this or not?

I could spend a long time recounting the ways He can meet with us to heal, change, deliver and bless, but I think the best thing is for you to find some time to experience this for yourself. He says He rewards those who diligently seek Him, and He means it. Seeking Him, and finding Him, is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

It really is as simple (and as difficult) as finding time, space, and a comfortable spot, putting on some worship music, and making yourself available to Him.

I’ve learnt to experience more of His heart for me and for others. I’ve learnt that even I can meet with Him like this, yes even me. All I can say in response to this is ‘Thank you Jesus.’

Consider yourself invited to experience Him in this way too.

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Soaking Prayer: A Life Changer

What is prayer? Wouldn’t you say it is communicating with God, sometimes in great swathes of words and sometimes just with a whisper, and of course, sometimes simply listening?

What would you say if I told you I had found a powerfully effective way of prayer, what if I told you it was life changing?
Would you be interested?
I bet you wouldn’t really believe me, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t, because I know what I felt like before I tried it for myself. And, yes I know I sound like some lunatic salesman with a truck load of snake oil to get rid of.

When someone you know well, someone you know has a great relationship with God, says this is the way they have become the way they are then you tend to listen. That’s what happened to me. A friend of mine who loves God more than many, and hears from Him with extraordinary ease, told me she did this every day, even with a toddler, I knew then I wanted to learn what she had learnt.

Soaking prayer has been a big discovery for me. I’d heard of it a long time ago, but dismissed it as a waste of time, all that lying around listening to wifty wafty music didn’t appeal to me at all. In fact at a conference we went to many years back, a person who shall remain nameless didn’t like the look of any of the other seminars, so he chose instead to go to a soaking session so he could have a sleep, you know how it is with self employed business men, night times aren’t the best for sleeping, too many thoughts about work, so an opportunity for a power nap was too good to miss.
The thing was, God didn’t seem to think soaking was a waste of time and so He nudged someone to give him a prophetic word, it was spot on, It seemed God’s sense of humour to me that he should receive such a word while doing his best to get some sleep.

Anyway, back to my discovery, it so happened that I was preparing to give a weekend’s talks, as I did this I spoke with a friend who told me she had found soaking prayer a powerful influence in her life.
I did some research and after a while thought I’d give it a try. When I told another friend of mine, the first one I mentioned above, the one with the toddler, she said ‘But that’s how I am the way I am!’ So of course I decided to embark on a journey to see whether it would be beneficial for me too.

(I’ll give some practical details in another post.)

No one could have been more surprised than me at what happened. I found it brought breakthrough in areas of my life which even though I’d addressed them thoroughly I still found a nuisance at times.
I met with Jesus in ways I’d never imagined I would, ways I felt confident other people might, but not me.
Isn’t that often the case though? We believe another person’s experience of God is more likely to be authentic or life changing than our own.
God loves to dispel this lie, and He did that for me. As I soaked, Jesus came to me and healed me of old wounds which I had dealt with as well as any believer knows how, all the forgiving and re-forgiving, etc., but the day Jesus came to me and healed me made the world of difference.

At times, soaking is like sitting with Jesus and letting Him bring up the topics He wants to address. Sometimes I’ve found He will show me ways to deal with problems, other times He has shown me a situation from another person’s point of view which has brought me a greater level of understanding and so a greater level of breakthrough too.

To be in the presence of God, knowing yourself to be safe and loved is a privilege in every way we can imagine, but it is also our birthright. We are His and He wants to shelter us close to Him as Psalm 91:1 indicates:
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
He loves to let us know what He wants for us, maybe on a particular day it will be that He reminds us of His love for the poor, another day it might be that He reminds us of our hardening heart to a friend and asks that we address this soon.
Sometimes our time in His presence will simply be spent revelling in the knowledge that we are perfectly loved, even though not perfectly loveable.

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More of His Presence?

Is it nonsense to say we want more of God’s presence? Is it ridiculous to sing of our desire for more of Him? Is it sentimental to invite Him to come to meet with us?

Some say this is so.

The bible doesn’t agree.

‘Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’

Hebrews 11:6

To say we long for more of Him demonstrates the heart of the psalmist, the same heart as the one of whom God could say:

I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Acts 13:22

David, the great lover of God.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
With singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.’

Psalm 63:1-8

David prayed this:

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’

Psalm 16:11

We aren’t ignorant enough to believe God is absent if we don’t invite His presence, we know He is closer than the air we breathe even though we may often be unconscious of the fact.
What we also know is that He loves to be wanted, invited, and welcomed, He doesn’t want us to hide from Him.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”‘

Genesis 3:8-10

We love God and have the deepest awe-filled respect for Him and we most certainly don’t wish to take His presence for granted. We want to know His heart, and to obey Him with all of ours.

So we cry out for Him to come and meet with us. To make His presence felt in ways which will please Him on that particular occasion.

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’

John 14:21-24

When we gather we can genuinely ask ourselves the question ‘What will Jesus do?’ because if we are willing to admit we need His presence and that we aren’t able to do more than organise a framework of a meeting, (why do we call it a meeting if we don’t want to meet Him?) then we have to allow for the fact that His presence could, really, make a difference.
If we won’t allow for this fact, then we protect ourselves from disappointment in some ways as we have no expectation of more, but if we permit ourselves to be vulnerable and admit we long for more, and that our ‘this’ is nowhere near enough without Him making His presence felt, then we give room for Him to come and take down our barriers and dismantle our confining structures.

Will we be like David in Psalm 63 and cry for more? Or will we be like Adam and hide when we hear Him coming?

Come on, let’s make ourselves vulnerable, let’s admit we haven’t had nearly enough of Him yet, after all, He loves to reward those who seek for Him.

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Feels Like Coming Home

Recently I watched as a young woman I know well brought a prophetic contribution in a meeting and I was struck by how much she had grown in the gifting. She was confident, comfortable, and entirely at home in what she was doing.

I thought of the stress we can sometimes put ourselves under as we try to discover ‘What has God got for me to do?’ or ‘What are my gifts?’.

It isn’t so necessary. If we will get and do the stuff around as and serve well, paying attention to what He says and shows us, we can find our God shaped gifting and calling as we go.

It isn’t rocket science. Funnily enough He does know we aren’t always amazingly bright and can easily be side tracked, so He draws us to where He wants us, makes us good at what He wants us to do, or at least lets a glimmer of ability in the area show through, and so almost by accident we come across what we are shaped for.

Maybe when we first attempt to speak in public we can barely string two words together, but if someone takes a risk with us we might just become good at it and find ourselves on the way to a future unimagined at first. I’ve seen this come about too.
It is deeply satisfying to see people who have no sense of ‘I can do this’, but who do have a creeping sense of God nudging them to try, becoming not just fairly able, but sharply, edgily, dynamically gifted. What a thrill that is.

To see another become entirely at home in their sphere of gifting, or to find yourself comfortable at the front edge of the as yet unknown is exhilarating and not to be missed.

Don’t settle or dawdle.

Take a risk. Be the first. Make a change. You don’t know what you will discover.

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Should we always take Jesus at His word?

Should we always take Jesus at his word?

What about when his mum asks Him to help the hosts of a wedding party when they have run out of wine and He tells her it’s not His time yet?

Or tells a mother that she can’t have what she’s asked of him because she’s a Gentile not one of the Jewish people he is called to?

I know, we can in all honesty take him absolutely at His word, but we need to take on board the truth that He sometimes gets to what His word is by a circuitous route.

He likes to provoke us, to make us say and think things which express the deep areas of our hearts in ways which if we had considered them more carefully, we may never have uttered them out loud.
He knows we need to be exposed to ourselves sometimes. So He gives us these opportunities to see who we are when we are irritated or offended and then maybe we will do something about it, hopefully take a u-turn.

When we assume He agrees with us, as we would if we were in some of the scenarios in the gospels, we let our true feelings show, and then, oh dear, we find He was just letting us discover who we are, at least sometimes.

But He doesn’t leave us there.

He draws us in to talk with Him, to let us discover even in our clumsy arrogant way of doing life that He loves us, and will work with us to change our hearts in order for this way of being to become more repellent to us than attractive.

How is this possible, that he should be so generously kind to us, and yet in such a way as to make us genuinely draw back from our old ways?
It’s only when we get hold of His way of seeing things that we really experience the full meaning of repentance, this old word, oh so familiar, means to change our minds and see things how God sees them.

We tend to hang on to the way of thinking which says repentance means to be sorry, and to turn away from whatever it is we’re doing that is wrong, this thinking isn’t mistaken, just incomplete.
We even say it is to turn right around to face the other way, but when we get hold of repentance as seeing this thing we’ve done, said, thought, from His point of view, with His heart of holy love for us and those around us, then we start to get a fuller picture of what repentance is.
If I see what I’ve done from someone else’s viewpoint it makes a great deal of difference and I will feel more like I should feel about it.

So should we take Jesus at his word?
Well of course we should, but maybe we want to let him finish what he’s saying before we jump in with our response.


It’s all about You Jesus

Whatever age they were when you were little, your parents seemed old, but did you notice that they don’t seem to change much over the years? For decades they appear to remain the same sort of ‘old’ they always were, so in some weird way when you look at them now, they seem to have stayed young. Ah well, age is a bit of slippery thing to grasp, much depends on what we do with our lives, we can be old before our time if we don’t invest them well.

I heard something on the radio the other day that made me sad, it was said by a person who was a comedian, apparently.
Anyway, they said that a person in middle age has little to look forward to other than acquiring a spare room, it got me thinking.

Kingdom people are different.
I see people who are extending their boundaries, increasing their influence, moving home, changing lifestyles, all at an age when the temptation is to settle and certainly not to be pioneers of any type, all due to the stirring of the Spirit as He says ‘Is this it, are you going to settle for this now?’

Jesus once asked a man do you want to be healed? His response was that there was no one to help him into the water when it was stirred by the angel of God. If the stirring has been happening in you, you know the disturbance He can cause as He moves on you to provoke you to change.

What will you do? Will you respond as my friends have and move to where God has made space for them?
Or will you wait for the stirring of the Spirit to pass? If you leave it long enough He will let you settle down again, is that what you want? Or when you sense Jesus saying ‘Do you want to see change?’ will you be willing?

At any age there can be a feverish level of activity devoted to filling a life with what will apparently satisfy us, make us emotionally and physically full, happy, and content, but the purpose of our desires and appetites is to drive us to long for more than simply a lifelong loving spouse, an adventure every now and then, and a way to provide for us and our families.

We are made for Him, for walking with Him and working with Him, finding our forgiveness, peace, satisfaction, purpose and fulfilment, in Him.
Other things may bring joy and delight as is His intent, but these are to provoke us to seek for the higher and better, nothing will deliver settled satisfaction to the heart and mind like life lived in step with Jesus.

Is this what it’s all about? Us finding our satisfaction in Him?
Yes and no.
He loves it when we do find these in Him, but our hearts, to truly find these things, must be seeking first His satisfaction, not our own.
How funny, we find ours in seeking His.
How kind He is, how lovely, and how awe-fully generous that He would include us in extending the Kingdom and changing culture, and intend that we would enjoy ourselves to the full while we do it.
It’s all about you, Jesus.

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Something lovely from Sarah Bessey’s Weekend Meditation

I saw this Dallas Willard quote in a blogpost from Sarah Bessey, I loved it and I’m sure you will too. (This father of ours, well, He is far beyond anything or anyone we are used to. Enjoy.)

weekend meditation

“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”. – Dallas Willard

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The Glory of God to Hide a Matter

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2 NIV

Guidance, revelation, little things or not so little, Father God seems to enjoy making me play at treasure hunt or hide and seek.
When I need direction I find He quite often likes to hide what He is up to for a while.
I’ve heard a phrase that says He likes to hide things for us rather than from us, and that seems to be the case with me, I imagine it is with you too.
The funny thing is though, He will give me dreams and directions which are exceptionally clear, sometimes so clear I wonder later how I didn’t understand from the first moment I heard Him, but I just don’t click what He is saying until the time He has chosen for me to see what He means. When I can see, it is so clear I have to laugh at my inability to see what is so obvious, but then I know He has been hiding things in plain sight, again.

He has sometimes told me things which I haven’t liked the sound of but I’ve recorded them in my journal anyway, thinking this is probably just me and my own thoughts, but in the pursuit of integrity I will record it regardless, I don’t only write down that which I’m sure is from Him, how will I know what I’ve missed otherwise?
As I read through my journals in later months or years I can discover long forgotten prayers or thoughts which are gradually becoming crisp clear unmistakeable reality. At that point I am so glad I keep a journal, I’d never remember or even realise all He says to me otherwise, and perhaps I might not be so willing to see His hand in events.
I feel as though He puts blinkers on me like a horse, to stop me shying away from what He is doing, until He knows I’m in the right place to see things from His point of view, or at least more than I would have before. I find myself in this place so often now, I’m getting used to the feeling of playing games and discovering a few more of the plans He has up His sleeve. I like it too.
Kind of like a child, ‘More Daddy, more!’

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Secret Mercies and the Kindness of God

Whenever I hear the account of Jesus walking on water, and then Peter getting in on it too, I tend to wander in my thoughts, along the lines of ‘How did that look then?’

Come with me for a few minutes, let’s take a look.

‘Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’

Matthew 14:22-33 NIV

First of all, why on earth did Peter ask Jesus to tell him to come to Him? He had no previous example to encourage him to expect this to be okay, yet he asked Jesus this most bizarre of questions.

Then he did the impossible. For a while.

(Just an aside, do we believe we need precedents to give us confidence to pray? Do we really imagine God has to have previously heard a particular request for Him to answer us? Surely not.)

My thinking doesn’t end there though. Even in Peter’s failure, a miracle is ongoing.

Peter began to sink, whoever begins to sink?

Try standing on water, you are plain sunk. Done. No beginning to it.

There is hidden mercy in this story, only a little thing I know, yet it shows the unnecessary kindness of Jesus.

He didn’t let Peter sink like a hefty fisherman, he let him start to sink slowly.

Time enough for Jesus to take his hand and return to the boat with him.

We kind of miss this bit don’t we. Even in Peter’s failure, his rising panic and draining faith, his loving Lord is making the water thick.

I wonder how many times Peter recalled the moment of Jesus’ secret mercy to him.

It seems to me He loves to share secrets with His friends, it communicates to us deep within when we know that God has done something individual and personally special for us. Something which to many would seem unnecessary, and ultimately it is, but He knows it demonstrates a level of particular love which gets under our guard and sinks into our heart.

How amazing is He, how kind?

Kind enough to pursue you down through all of your years. Catching your eye with this or that, making you curious. Drawing you in little by little, until you get to a place of knowing this is for real, He does genuinely love you in ways far beyond anything you might believe He has to as a Saviour, or as a Lord, but in addition to those, He loves as your best Friend, and as the perfect Dad, and as a Brother who says nothing is too much. Nothing.
From the extremes of the cross and the grave, to the detail of water being too thin.
That’s how kind He is. That’s how much He loves you.


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