You are Invited

I’m in Sherbrooke, Quebec, with the team of the Quebec House of Prayer.  We are sharing stories of their life together.  “Tell me your juiciest, most QHOPPY moment.”

Lots of tales, many warm tears.  They’re a tender hearted bunch.

What caches my attention is that most of the stories begin with the phrase, “so I received an invitation…”  As I look around the table of dedicated prayer missionaries, I realize that they are all there because they have been invited.  Brian and Tanya, the Directors, reached out to them (usually via Facebook messenger), and asked “would you come join us?”

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Fourteen and half years ago, Kirk and I felt a call to prayer missions.  So we did the only thing we knew to to – we applied to be staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  We auditioned, went down for an interview, and were accepted.  We began to put our affairs in order.  I trained people to replace me at the church, and offloaded my business clients.  But as the time to depart drew near, we started to feel ill at ease.  Something didn’t feel right.  I remember one night, Kirk was pacing back and forth in our bedroom, “If there is a peace of Christ that passes understanding, this isn’t it!”  So discerning that we had made a mistake, we pushed pause, and retreated to the family cottage to pout and to pray.

And while we were there we received an invitation.  A group of pastors who had already been praying together weekly for six years contacted us.  They wanted to see a House of Prayer established in Southern Ontario, and could we come and help?

The rest, as they say, is history.

We received an invitation.

Encouraged by the success of Brian and Tanya’s invitations, I’ve been spending this week asking people to join us.  “Come and play the hand drums in our worship set!  Bring your guitar!  Hey, would you consider joining our staff?”

I’m on a roll, so I thought I would do it on the blog as well.

May I invite you to join us?  For a prayer meeting?  Or an afternoon in the prayer room?  To help out at the Prayer Truck this summer?  Or maybe God is calling you to urban and prayer missions for short term or even vocationally?

You are very welcome to come and visit with us and explore with us this lifestyle given to loving Jesus through prayer, mission and justice.  Drop me a line at jill@gohop.ca if you want to chat about it!

Welcome carpet

You’ve been invited.

Quebec House of Prayer – Even the Sparrow finds a Place by Your Altar

Tanya Allatt, with her husband Brian, runs the Quebec House of Prayer.  She posted this picture on Facebook yesterday.

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A robin had built a nest on the wreath on the front door of her home.

“She stays with her eggs all night. Then, in the morning, I knock gently to let her know that I need to let my chicks out the door for school.” wrote Tanya, “She is very obliging.”

The prayer room at QHOP has another nest, for another birdie.

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A local missionary contracted a very painful chronic virus while overseas, and is now convalescing at QHOP.  She is staying at their motel.  They care for her.  When her pain abates enough to leave her bed, they wheel her over to the prayer room where she can lie down and rest in the presence of the Lord.  The sparrow with the broken wing has a place by the altar.

Waitaminit, did you say motel?  A House of Prayer has a motel?

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Yes, last year QHOP purchased the motel on the adjoining property.  They run it as a standard motel, and suites are available for pilgrims to the House of Prayer.  As they took it over and learned how to run it, they have learned a lot about extending hospitality.

“At QHOP we host the Presence of the Lord.  Asking ourselves, what makes the Holy Spirit comfortable here?  What welcomes His presence here among us?” muses Tanya, “And we also host the people of the Lord.  What makes the House of Prayer a welcoming, safe place for pilgrims?”

Robins, sparrows, pilgrims, all finding a place by the altar of the Lord in Sherbrooke Quebec.

Punk Monk and Knitting a Sweater that Fits

Years ago GOHOP went on a journey of exploration.  We loved some of the spiritual DNA we had received from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City:  praying scriptures, a vocational call for some to a lifestyle extravagantly given to prayer, the fusion of prayer and worship, the centrality of Jesus in the prayer movement.

However, we found that the IHOP model wasn’t fitting us or our context the way we had hoped.  It was like we borrowed a friend’s sweater that we loved, but our body was shaped differently, so when it was on us, it didn’t fit or look the same.  We wanted our Presbyterian friends to be just as comfortable in the prayer room as our Pentecostal ones.  Although we loved Harp and Bowl, we were eager to explore what the Apostle Paul calls “all kinds of prayer.”  And we wanted to create an expression that was meaningful and accessible to the urban poor.

Enter 24-7 Prayer and Andy Freeman.

Andy was the founder of 24-7 International’s first Boiler Room (their name for Houses of Prayer) and co-authored a book Punk Monk with Pete Greig.  In his book, Andy painted a picture of communities built around prayer, mission and justice, and models of doing life and prayer together that seemed like they might fit us better.

So we began to knit our own sweater, keeping the wooly bits from IHOP that we still loved, and weaving in strands of spiritual DNA and models that Andy and 24-7 embodied.  The end result?  GOHOP in it’s present incarnation.  Community dinners and houses.  Prayer in UHauls in back alleys.  A joyful mash up of all kinds folks from diverse theological perspectives.

Today I’m picking Andy up at the airport, and he’s spending three days with us.  We’re gonna show him around Hamilton and immerse him in our rhythms.  In a sense, he is an important spiritual father to our little prayer community.  I’m hoping that as he prays, eats, and chats with us, that he will see how God has used him to create life in our midst and help us knit a sweater that fits – that he would see his life and vision enfleshed in our community and that he would be encouraged.

Andy will be joining us at our Annual General Party at 541 Eatery and Exchange on Wednesday night at 7:30.  Once a year we gather to eat, pray, and love…. and tell stories.  I bet Andy’s got a bunch of good ones.  Maybe you can join us!

GOHOP Annual General Party

Resources for Communities – Bed Bug Prevention

We’ve been initiated.

And are now true blue Hamiltonians.

We spent a good chunk of the summer battling bedbugs in our community house. After 4 visits from the exterminators, likely 20 hours of vacuuming and a gazillion loads of laundry, we have now been free from bug sightings or bitings for about a month. I’m feelingly increasingly optimistic that we have overcome. A week or so ago, I baked a cake which I decorated as a bedbug, and we ATE IT, as a declaration of our vanquishing our creepy little foes (I know, kinda gross, but very satisfying).

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At our latest house meeting, we put together a bedbug prevention plan, which we hope will, y’now, prevent further infestations. So here is the list from our brainstorming session!

– wash bedding weekly
– keep bedrooms uncluttered
– have bedbug covers on every mattress
– dust with diatimaceous earth, which is a very fine algae that dehydrates and kills bedbugs within about 48 hours. We use food grade DE, so as not to cause any harm to our parrot Bert. We dust around the baseboards, all the nooks and crannies of our bed frames, in between our mattresses. We also dust under the cushions of the main floor couches and easy chairs.
– put a this goopy circle of petroleum jelly on each couch or soft chair leg, and bed legs.
– metal bed frames are better than wood.
– make sure your blankets don’t touch the floors of your bedroom, and that your bed doesn’t touch the walls.
– don’t leave clothes lying around on the floor of your bedrooms.
– vacuum the couches after big social events, or after a friend who comes over who you know has bedbugs. Inspect couch cushions regularly.
– when you visit someone or somewhere that might be infested (which includes movie theatres and buses!), throw your clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes upon your return. It might feel like a hassle, but it is nothing compared to the hassle of trying to get your house free of bugs.
– when travelling, don’t put your suitcase on the floor in the hotel room. Instead place it on a table. Upon returning, unpack suitcase outside the house, take clothes directly to the laundry, and then vacuum out your suitcase, and optionally dust it with diatimaceous earth.
– regularly run your purse/backpack through the dryer for 30 minutes.
– if you buy anything used (ie Value Village, garage sales), launder it immediately, or if it’s not launderable, closely inspect, wipe down or vacuum it.

I expect there are those among you who have great prevention strategies as well, and we would love to hear them! Send them to us in the comment section.

Bedbugs are pandemic in Hamilton. We wrestle with the tension of being hospitable to our friends, many of whom are struggling with bedbugs as well, and keeping our home uninfected. The reality is that hospitality can be hazardous and costly. We feel like it’s worth the risk, and with a little pro activity at our end we can diminish the risk and enjoy our friends with more peace of mind.

Cottage Fathers and Mothers – Re-Creating instead of Vacate-ing

in the third century, devout believers fled the cities and set up camp in the desert.  There they pursued lifestyles of extravagant devotion, characterized by prayer, solitude, silence, and fasting.  Pilgrims would come and visit, seeking the Lord alongside these holy men and women we now call the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

After the vigours of prayer truck, we also fled the city and spent two weeks at Kirks’ sister’s cottage north of Huntsville.  When doing urban ministry, especially front line work, it’s important from time to get away from concrete and into the bush.

In early years, I found much to my dismay, that I didn’t do a lot of praying on my vacation.  I realized that somehow I had begun to associate prayer with my job.  An embarrassing revelation, to say the least.  The last thing I want to be is a “professional pray-er!”

It became important for me to find out what the difference between “vacating” and “re-creating” was.  It’s easy to vacate, to zone out.  Eat too much, bombard our senses with entertainment and media.  I would glut on fiction books – lying around and reading 800 pages a day of fluff and nothing.  And then wonder why I didn’t feel restored.

What would it look like for me to identify some activities that were truly re-creational?  That enliven my heart and spirit, and awaken my heart to my Creator rather than sending myself into a stupor.

I also don’t do well with lots of unstructured time.  I start feeling depressed and sluggish.  They say in AA, failing to plan is planning to fail, so now I go into my vacation time with a plan.

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I took one of my favourite books on Spiritual Formation, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, and started my day reading and doing some of the excellent spiritual exercises at the end of each chapter.  The exercises are probing and cause me to dig deep into God and into my own psyche.  Cottage time is good time to do some of the deeper inner work required for spiritual health, and Barton is a trustworthy guide into the realm of the Spirit and my own soul.

And I journal.  Three pages every day.  I call them the morning pages, and it’s a practice I picked up from Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way.  I can write about anything, even about not wanting to write!  But it helps me process life, talk to God in a focused way, and write down what I hear Him saying in response.

In response to a challenge by Barton, I started a daily Examen, where with the Holy Spirit, I examine each day for signs of His presence and work around me, and assess how I’ve come alongside Him or been at cross purposes with Him.  It’s an ancient Ignatian form of prayer, and I’m finding it very helpful in my quest to be more alive to His presence in and around me.

I do read as well.  Fiction even!  But I’m fussy about what I read.  I want stuff that is gentle, that feeds my spirit and is full of life.  It’s tricky to find good fiction that doesn’t have defiling bits in it, but with the help of friends I’m compiling a list.  I also read non fiction in my field, and this year at the cottage read three books by new friends that I made at the New Monastic Consultation last month in BC.   Slow Church by Chris Smith, and The Sacred Year and Under the Overpass by Michael Yankoski.  Michael has asked me to write a review of The Sacred Year prior to it’s release and sent me a pre-release copy.  I loved it and you all need to read it, and I will devote a whole blog to it shortly.

Cottage is time for puttering as well.  Cooking, getting wood for the wood stove.  Quiet work with my hands.  Very soul filling for me.  I even did some more felting!

Tree by streams of living water!
Tree by streams of living water!

Kirk and I began doing a daily Lectio Divina each day together and we are slowly prayer-reading and meditating our way through the gospel of Mark.  He’s not much of a reader, so some evenings I would just read him the highlighted bits of books I was reading, and share my learning.

We did also watch some movies, and we also have a family tradition of watching episodes of Home Improvement at the cottage as well.  But I felt that it was in good balance with our other activities.

All said, it turned into a lovely 2 week long spiritual retreat for me individually and for Kirk and I as a couple.  We had some good conversations about life, ministry, and the way forward together.

And we also had the opportunity to offer hospitality to pilgrims!  Some friends came up, and it was good to spend time together in prayer and then send them off in a canoe to hang out with Jesus.

Silence.  Solitude.  Wilderness places.  Loving pilgrims who came our way.

I could totally live like this – maybe Kirk and I inspire a movement of cottage mothers and fathers!

Even the Sparrows

Sleepy day in the truck.  I was praying, tucked away in the back, but realized that my praying was turning into nodding (and possibly drooling) so I grabbed my guitar, and perched on the lip of the truck.

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I love the little birds that hop and peck on the sidewalk outside the truck.  We have a box of Cheerios on board, and I often throw a handful onto the street, just to see their delighted response.  So there I am, contemplating the birds, and contemplating the other “sparrows” that flit about the truck, and often nest a while inside.  The scriptures draw the analogy between the sparrows and the poor, and it seemed to me to be an apt one.

So, for the first time in a long time, I began to play, sing, and write.

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Even the Sparrows

Even the sparrows find a place near your altar,

Even the wanderers who roam.

Even the fatherless are embraced by the Father

We’re coming home, we’re coming home.

The table is set

We will sit down

Surrounded by friends

And feast….

Birthing and groaning better describe the process than the word “songwriting”.  It may sound weird, but songs roll around my insides, and become my prayers.  I feel the weight of them, the rush and swirl.  I carry them for days, sometimes weeks.  So this is what I am carrying now.

The next time I was at the truck, one of our new truck friends brought by a new little buddy of his, to introduce him to me.

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Seemed appropriate.

First Day of the Prayer Truck

Prayer Truck started yesterday at 7 am!

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We chose the theme “Beautiful Things” after a Michael Gungor song that we’ve been singing over the city for several years. One line in particular really strikes us…

all around, life is springing up from this old ground, out of chaos life is being found in You“. We are seeing this in Hamilton, and want to continue to pray it into being!

Before I had been there an hour, people were coming by to pray.

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Maddi, one of the Rock youth, and one of the creators of the Prayer Truck this year, thought the truck was very relaxing…

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Several have already written their prayers on the walls..

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At one point, a woman in a minivan full of children, drove by and yelled out of her window, “I need prayer! I need prayer!”

Don’t we all?

Later on, after my shift, I saw evidence on Facebook that things were going strong at the truck.

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At 10 pm I popped over to the truck to drop something off. It was jammed full of young people, and my husband Kirk was ministering to someone on the sidewalk.

A full and fruitful first day! Looking forward to the rest of the month! You can just pop by and pray, or sign up for an hour in the truck at http://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/0521a0