My friends, I had a reallllly interesting night a week ago. It was one of those nights where you see God move and you drive home with a head full of thoughts.
To tell you the story, I need to backtrack a little. One of our SUMites, Paula Blackie, lives about an hour's drive from me, and every now and again I meet her for coffee.
The first time we ever met in person, we randomly picked a cafe halfway between our two houses. When we got there, imagine our surprise when we saw that the cafe was decorated with model wedding cakes ... Everywhere.
I meet a SUMite in a place where the walls are adorned with wedding cakes? ... Love it!
But God had more fun for us than that.
A few months ago (sitting in this cafe), Paula shared with me that she'd been asked by God to gather families in her neighborhood on the beach on a Sunday night. She obeyed.
Shortly after that, she was nudged by God to phone a particular man, and ask if she could use his house for these gatherings. Well, he had already been nudged by God about this too, and said yes. So began a little house church.
This house church has grown to about fifty people, and a competent team of four leaders -- amazing, sold-out, on-fire Christians -- have come around Paula to help her. As a team of three men and two women, they love this 'church' as much as Paula does and they run it as a team.
Can SUMites do this? Well, sometimes God works in unusual ways. The Bible has many stories that demonstrate that.
Having heard all this, I needed to go and visit this house church. For me, this story of Paula's has become a much-loved extension in our SUM family; it's something one of our community is doing and it's exciting.
Here's where it got fun...
I turned up thinking I was going to just eat a meal and enjoy meeting some people; but, Paula got nudged by the Holy Spirit: "Ask Ann to join in with ministry."
They're all sitting in the room on couches, we've listened to some worship and taken communion. Paula sidles up to me and says: "We're going to walk round and give every person a marshmallow and say 'Jesus loves you'. Then, Ann, would you be happy to pray for each person and give them a blessing?"
I'd never done this before with a room of strangers ... but I really was very happy to do it, so said a joyful yes.
Each person in that room was a stranger to me, bar Paula and one other. Strangers yes, but brothers and sisters in Christ. I knelt in front of each person one by one, asked Jesus what to pray, waited to see what popped into my mind, and used that to pray.
Honestly, I couldn't tell if those prayers were resonating with them. But I do know that if you pray blessing over someone with the right heart, your words are powerful.
It came to Paula, and I somehow got the sense of tears of laughter, so I said, "I bless you with tears of laughter." What a funny thing to pray but it was what popped into my mind.
Well ... I finished, plonked myself down on a dining seat, and turned to someone to talk to them, when snorts of laughter started to emit from Paula's corner. I looked over thinking, "She's being quite loud"... But then I saw the man next to her double over, tears streaming down his face, joy on his face. He looked over at me, said, "I feel the presence of God so thickly," then burst out laughing again. Then, suddenly, the man in the chair next to me leant forward, head in hands, and started to giggle.
It was Holy Laughter!
Well, when we bless people, the joy of heaven comes. I love the fact the laughter came after that round of blessings. Funnily, I never felt the laughter myself -- so instead I watched them curiously with a smile on my face.
On the drive home I said to God, "Whether or not each prayer resonated, I do pray that those blessings will come to fruition in those people's lives."
And I, for one, cannot wait to visit that house church again.
Oh I hope you liked that story, and I wish you a joy-filled weekend, and that the joy of the Holy Spirit will fill you to the brim, overflowing!