Meeting an angel

August 7, 2009

During the August bank Holiday, several churches are combining to have a Mission to Morecambe. Unfortunately, I can’t be there, as I’ll be at the annual conference of the Overseas Fellowship of Nigerian Christians in Caefnlee, Wales. But I know about this and wish them well.

How do I know? Well, if you want to find out more, listen to my gospel show next week on Diversity FM. You’ll hear it live at 1 PM, repeated at 8 PM and the Sunday after at 10 AM. By God’s grace, I’ll be interviewing Hilson Carter, who’s leading the project.

I had the pleasure (and privilege) of speaking to him after Wednesday’s show, just to get an idea of the man. He’s a quietly spoken man, not the firy evangelist. I wonder what he’ll think of my upbeat gospel show. But don’t be fooled, he has a story that’s worth listening to.

How did he decide to do this? Well, he’s only just been in the area two years now. He was cycling with his daughter when they stopped to argue about whether she should be wearing her helmet properly. These two men approached them and asked if they were Christians. When they said yes, the conversation began, and the men told him that he should give a message to the Morecambe bay Christian Centre. OK he thought, I don’t even know who these people are, or where the Morecambe Bay Christian Centre is, but I’ll listen anyway. And then they prayed, and as they did, one of the men touched his shoulder and said “receive the fire”. Hilson tells me that a shiver went down his spine.

As the men left, he told his daughter that they’d disappear. The part they followed would lead to a bend, and then a car park. So, just to prove his point, he cycled with his daughter to follow them. He was cycling, they were walking, yet, they didn’t find the men.

This happened last year. Not too long after that, the comedian who’s now become a Christian, Bobby Ball was visiting the Brookhouse Methodist church, and he attended. There, he got a confirmatory revelation, and someone actually told him that their daughter worshipped at the Morecambe Bay Christian fellowship. But he still didn’t know exactly where that was, just where to park his car.

He did go there one Sunday, parked and prayed that God would show him what to do. Someone else pulled up with a Bible and confirmed that the centre was nearby. When Hilson delivered his message to the elders, they said that they’d had a similar word.

Oh I didn’t tell you. Hilson had been introduced to me by a great friend, Hilton. It’s great, their names are so similar. Hilton sat there, quietly listening, and it was at this point he spoke. He said he hadn’t realised that this had happened a year ago, because he’d also been to the Morecambe Bay Christian Fellowship and delivered a similar message, but it would have been after Hilson’s trip.

But there was more to come. At the end of May, An evangelist from Newcastle had visited the Brookhouse methodist church. I’d heard of this, even interviewed one of the elders of the church. I’d then been invited to the Friday evening event, but couldn’t make the rest of the weekend, as I was on my way to Middlesborough. It was a great Friday evening, and they were supposed to go to Lancaster town centre on the Saturday, inviting people for the evening and Sunday morning event. In the end, it didn’t happen; they went to Morecambe instead. I heard this from a friend. But Hilson also told me that on Sunday, Davey (that’s his name) had said he’d had a revelation that he’d be back in the area much sooner than he’d thought. It seems he’ll now be joining them in Morecambe. When Hilson told Davey about his vision, Davey agreed that it was probably the same thing, but said that God was impressing on him that it should be sooner than they’d anticipated, the August Bank Holiday.

So, now Hilson is arranging with all the churches in the area for prayer support and other help.

I asked him about his life. He said he’d been working in the Westmidlands on a project for young people. Miracles had accompanied his work. He once took 500 young people to the Blackpool Pleasure beach, and without any resources, he got the managers to give him tickets, organised their transport, etc. He also tole me he’d mostly worked from home, because he’d had problems with his feet. Apparently he’d torn his tendons and couldn’t walk properly. One day, quite recently, he’d been at an event where the speaker had talked about the simplicity of praying to God. He’d said that if anyone wanted prayer, they should come forward, row by row. It didn’t happen, everyone rushed forward. But it didn’t matter. When this speaker took hold of Hilson’s feet and started praying, Hilson closed his eyes. But the speaker said he should open it, or he’d miss the miracle. He opened it and watched in amazement as his two feet were healed. Apparently there were many witnesses at the event, but many who had walked and worked with him over the preceding 15 years can testify to what he was before. I know he walked with me into town to join his family, who were waiting for him in a car park. I was headed for the market, and after he left me, I just kept wondering about God’s power. You don’t have to be a firy evangelist or have multiple degrees. You don’t have to be anything, just willing to listen and obey.

You’ll hear more about this if you tune in to
next Wednesday, or Check out Hilton’s website which has all sorts of information about Christian activities in the area

Amazing Grace

August 7, 2009

Ok, let’s do some background. I am a trustee of Sunbeams Music Trust, a really great charity. Apart from numerous other awards, two years ago, they were Northwest England’s charity of the year, and runner up in the national contest.

Sunbeams is a charity that provides ‘Music for Life’ to elderly and disabled people. Ok, they don’t call them disabled people and they don’t think of them as clients either, but let’s not quibble about words now. On Monday 7th September, they’re at St Martins In The Fields,for a lunchtime concert, and they asked if I’d play the piano. We have rehearsals in Kendal every Thursday, to finish at 6 PM. This way, I can get to the worship group meeting at King’s, which starts at 7:30.

It just happened that yesterday, everyone was on holiday, so there was no worship group. I was asked to stay for a meal, which I gratefully accepted. Better to eat in an Italian restaurant than face my own cooking. As I wasn’t ready to go home after that, I was asked if I’d go to the rifleman with them. Apparently, one of their members was playing and it would just be good to be there. Again, I agreed.

We got there about 8 PM, and then musicians started to appear. I spoke to one of them, and he said it was an Irish music night. It reminded me of the times I used to go to such evenings at the Yorkshire House, a pub in Lancaster. It was every Monday evening, run by one Jim Mcguire. The guy’s dead now, and the evenings folded up when he went to hospital for the last time. But they were such intimate evenings that I was sure I’d love this one. It was going to be an unplugged session.

There were fiddles, banjos, guitars, flutes, and that drum, (I’m not going to spell it here). That’s what our friend was playing. And then the music started. It’s interesting, one person picks a tune and everyone just follows. And all around you you hear the different instruments. It’s a room full of music. There is great skill in this room; you hear it as the fingers fly over the fiddle strings or as you hear intricate flute playing. Or if someone picks a song, everyone sings along. It’s so beautiful, the sound of everyone singing gently in a pub.

I was one of the few non-Irish people who went to the Pan Keltic meetings on a Monday evening at the Yorkshire House. And Jimmy would always let me sing, and everyone would accompany me. Of course I had learned several Irish folk songs at this time, but I couldn’t sing one of them, so I’d pick my own songs. And they didn’t mind at all, in fact, I believe they loved it.

Annie Mawson, who runs Sunbeams Music, wanted me to sing before catching the 10:05 back to Lancaster, so I stood up and began to sing “amazing Grace”. And as I started to sing, one, then another voice joined in, one instrument, then another found the key and the room was again filled with music and singing. I would have stopped just so I could hear everyone sing, then I realised I was the one supposed to be leading this one.

The truth is, except when I’m part of the worship group in church, I still feel nervous when I sing publicly. That is, until the first note, then I get carried away. But I’ve often wondered what it is about Amazing Grace. Last year, I sang it at a wedding and was told that several people had tears in their eyes. It is such a beautiful song. Or is it the thought of a blind man singing “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see”.

Or maybe it’s something else. For me, the song talks about my past, my present and my future. It reminds me of the transformation that God’s amazing grace has made in my life. It was a transformation from darkness and despair to the revelation of His light and His guiding hand to show me the way. The song reveals how His grace first taught me to fear God, and then freed me from other fears and how His grace sees me through all manner of troubles, till I get home to God, where I’ll sing His praise forever more. It’s more than just the present; the story is not over when I find His grace. It’s a forever thing.

Everyone knows the words of Amazing grace. It’s no longer just a church song, as demonstrated yesterday when I sang it, holding a glass of wine in an Irish evening. And many know the history too; it was composed by a former slave dealer who found God in stormy seas and became a Christian. I hear John Newton even advised William Wilberforce, the great anti slavery campaigner and MP.

When I talk to people about singing or playing, I always say that you perform best if you first stop to consider what the song means to you. So, I’ve told you what the song means to me, but why does everyone know it so well. Is it just the simple melody? Maybe not. Maybe it’s how it reminds everyone of what they either have, or need. If you have the grace, you recognize it’s full impact, if you don’t, it reminds you of your need.

As I walked home from Lancaster train station, I walked past another pub, I think it was the Merchants. I could hear the sounds of an accordion (oh there was one in the Riflemans in Kendal) and I could hear folk music playing. But this time, I walked past. It was time to go home. If I’d stopped, maybe I’d have been drawn again into that intimate gathering. You see, we walk past many things in our lives. We never know what it would bring if we don’t step into the room and feel it. Maybe it’s the same with faith. People hear about it and have strange concepts of Christianity because they haven’t walked into it, settled down and absorbed it properly. Those who do have often said that they got it wrong when they viewed it from the outside. Jesus is the source of the amazing grace, and He brings it to all. Those who receive it will end up in some church when they’re alive, and in heaven for the forever experience. But the message is for all, just like the song speaks to all.

I had great conversation with the staff at Sunbeams yesterday. I remember spending great time and trying all my selling skills to tell them about Twitter. Their collectiv eyes just glazed over, they weren’t having it. But when I sang Amazing Grace, they all listened. So, if you’re in London, perhaps you’d like to hear the troupe sing on 7th September. There might be this keyboardist, who’s already been asked if he’ll sing a song, and as it’s a church, he might just sing Amazing Grace. Before then, on Thursday 3 September, in Workington, there’s this concert to prepare us for the big day. I’ll be missing worship group for this one, and I think it’s at the St John’s church at 7:30 PM.